Will Meat Just Be Obsolete Some Day?

I already brought this up on Twitter. But no one replied. Vegans must have it tough. We don’t seem to be any closer to banning meat, despite much of the campaigning and lobbying that they have apparently done.

But I don’t think they should despair. I predict meat will just become obsolete some day.

It is unsanitary, unhealthy, uneconomical, just to name a few things. And they can already grow it in a Petri dish. I think in the future it will just become obsolete. Am I wrong?

I put this in GD because I want you to tell me where I’m wrong in this, if indeed I am. (I already sense some of you disagree with me.)

Thank you all in advance for your civil discourse.


I’m a meat eater. I’ve tried veganism a couple to a few weeks at a time. Didn’t take. I just enjoy the taste and texture too much for it to stick. But I would very much like to see the entirety of meat production be switched to vat production and away from the current farmed meat production. The sooner the better.

There are two techs in play here: meat substitutes, and lab grown meat. We are making leaps and strides in both areas, and I do think as soon as it becomes cheaper to grow a cow’s weight in burgers than to grow a cow and slaughter it we will see a revolution whose speed will give us whiplash. Not for moral reasons (although the corporations trying to get us to make the switch may well use moral reasons in their sales pitch) but for simple economic ones.

Right, price is the only determining factor. There’s no social revolution on the horizon that will lead to great swaths of people becoming vegetarian for moral or ethical reasons. Give the world a convincing and cheap substitute, and that will be the end of it. “Real” meat will become something for the upper class, and a treat for everyone else.

But that day is pretty far ahead too. Right now, they can make a pretty decent ground beef analogue. No steaks, no ribs, no chicken, no fish.

Another price will determine that, as well as health.

If the price of vat meat is significantly cheaper then animal meat, animal meat may become a luxury food, and may eventually be banned. However that would appear to be more likely for large mammals, chicken for one is very cheap to produce and should be able to compete on price.

Health, if vat meat is found to be unhealthy in some ways compared to animal meat, I don’t expect it to be mainstream.

As far is vegetarians, I would think many are rejoicing at their expanding options.

Part 1 of 2 due to character limits

Do you consider “banning meat” to be a good thing? Do you consider eating meat a bad thing? It would help to know your ethical stance.

Given that food borne illnesses have been more common in plants in the US in recent years than in meat I’m not sure meat has the monopoly on “unsanitary”. Nor is meat inherently unhealthy. Too much meat is unhealthy, but so is a diet that is 95% white rice. Also, the “petri dish” version of meat is not yet economical.

In the context of our gatherer-hunter ancestors, meat was a good thing. It is important to note, however, that meat was not always on the menu and when it was it was often small game, fish, shellfish that could be gathered form shore, or even insects/grubs. Meat provided an occasional infusion of protein, fats, and iron into the diet, and being game meat, was leaner that our mass-produced steaks. Most diets of gatherer-hunters were predominantly plant-based. (An exception were the high arctic peoples, such as the Inuit, who truly could be called hunter-gatherers, but theirs is an exceptional environment for a tropical hominid to colonize and they ate a lot of stuff that is disdained by today’s typical meat eater, like brains, marrow, organ meat (but NOT polar bear liver!) and so forth.)

So… if meat TODAY is “unsanitary” and “unhealthy” it has as much if not more to do with the manner in which it is produced and harvested than any inherent quality of animal source foods.

Part 2 of 2 due to character limits

Uneconomical is a slightly different question. I don’t think you can call meat “uneconomical” in today’s context because it’s being produced profitably. I suspect what you might have meant is that it is not sustainable. It’s not, long term.

I want to point out, though, that meat in not inherently uneconomical. Something like grass-fed beef allows the conversation of grasses and other plants humans can not eat into meat that humans are able to eat. In certain contexts that actually is economical, which is why there have been pastoralist societies, or societies that were hunter-gatherers on grasslands.

On a plane of 7 billion (give or take a hundred million) a meat-heavy diet is NOT sustainable long term even if short term it is economically feasible on some level. It’s the scale of meat production that is the problem more than anything inherently wrong with meat.

A comparison would be whale hunting: as practiced by arctic peoples it was never a threat to whale species. The threat of extinction came from industrial whale hunting. That’s what needed to be stopped. Subsistence level whale hunting continues on a very limited basis and has not interfered with whale species recovering populations because by its very nature (shore-based small boats) it’s not going to wipe out a species, and due to its dangers even those who still practice it are not constantly going out, it’s a once-a-year type activity (or even less than that).

(Note this is different than the ethics of hunting whales, it’s a point about the sustainability of whale hunting, not whether or not it’s a good or evil action.)

But no, I don’t think meat will become “obsolete” in the sense no one will be eating it. I do think the world will have to, of necessity, move to a more plant-based diet overall. Meat might become like hunting or gathering wild foods is in our current world - a niche market at best, possibly heavily regulated to manage resources, with very limited appeal to most people.

Right now, even those of us who like to eat wild meats are not (usually) eating them constantly - due to the nature of hunting, regulations, and so on the cost of obtaining wild meats is significantly higher than the price of meat and fish cut up and wrapped in plastic in the store.

And now for the third part…

I agree with others that it is very unlikely to impossible that a wave of societal transformation will suddenly make the entire human race give up eating meat. Despite what some have claimed, humans ARE omnivores and eating meat has been a part of our ancestral line long before we evolved to H. sapiens. Our closest ape relatives - chimpanzees and bonobos - also are omnivores and can and do eat meat, even if infrequently. Eating animal based foods will continue to be an option barring genetic engineering of the species to be entirely vegetarian. Which development I think would be extremely unlikely.

There are three components to humans eating meat:

  1. Societal practice/tradition
  2. Availability
  3. Economics

Some societies ARE vegetarian, or nearly so. India is an example of a society were vegetarianism is common, veganism has a long tradition as well, and abstaining from animal foods not seen as weird but as a perfectly fine dietary choice. Among the Inuit, however, refusing to eat animal-based foods wouldn’t just be weird, it would be lethal due to the environment and lack of alternatives. Most human societies are somewhere between those two. Meat is an option and has been for a very long time. A lot of traditions have grown up around meat, many carried over from when meat was less common on the table and was a food associated with status and feasts. Getting entire societies to gives those status markers and feasts up entirely would be extremely difficult.

… and apparently there are limits to how many posts in a row you can make so if you want to hear the rest of what I have to say someone has to reply to this thread before I can do so. >sigh<

I think that animal grown meat will become far less common in the future. I don’t think it will ever go away, and doubt it will be banned, but I do think that we will in general switch to alternatives as they become available and economical.

Right now, I can pay (if I can get ahold of it) $50 for a chicken nugget that tastes kinda like chicken. I’m not going to do that.

But if it comes down, especially if it is cheaper, then I would definitely make the switch. It really does come down to cost. There are some out there who are willing to pay exorbitant prices for “sustainable” agriculture, but paying those kinds of prices is not sustainable.

Personally, I’m a fan of using crickets for food, but I’m not sure how well that would catch on.

I want to eat lab-grown endangered animal steaks.

But I think this tech is a ways off still.

The trend is already towards “factory farming” where the fact that the meat comes from a living animal is regarded as an inconvenience. Another vote for economics trumping all. We’ll probably move to vat grown ground “meat” as soon as it becomes practical. I don’t see actual animal meat getting phased out anytime soon though, although it might become a luxury item compared to burgers and nuggets.

I wonder what the world would look like if you removed the economic incentives that govern wildlife management now. If it’s cheaper to grow every meat in a lab, do humans just let nature take its course in a system we have been meddling in for a century or more?

Meat already IS obsolete, in the sense that we can get along perfectly well without it. We can certainly fill our protein needs in numerous other ways.

And I’ve been to Indian vegetarian buffets where the absence of meat wasn’t something you noticed, so my general thought is that it’s well within our capabilities to have excellent meatless culinary experiences.

It’s just that at least in the U.S.A., animal flesh is central to our expectations of what a meal should include. It’s those expectations, nothing else, that create a ‘need’ for lab-grown meat or meat substitutes such as the Impossible Burger.

Well said.

The mere fact a marketing agency, with all their expertise in behavior control via messaging chose to name a product “Impossible Burger” speaks volumes.

Everyone (especially Americans) “knows” fake meat sux. Hence the “Impossible” moniker is an acknowledgement that that’s the mental mileu their sales message is being broadcast into.

With the hope of course that “Impossible” soon enough becomes an ironic reference to the bad old days when folks were so unenlightened as to believe such drivel. IOW “Of course plant burgers are yummy; everyone knows that. (Now).”

There’s a masterful ad where one of the people being fed the burger looks like a rancher: weathered face, short hair, blue jeans, work shirt, hat, etc. When told it’s a plant-burger he exclaims in a Texan-like America rural accent, “Well, I’m a damn fool!” Much to his surprise he’s been shown the light & the scales have fallen from his eyes.

And the impossible burger is actually less healthy for us than a real beef patty.

It is possible in certain scenarios for certain societies. Despite accelerating globalization, there are certain countries that insist on sticking to their own traditions and they will continue to do what they regard as right according to their beliefs.

When the world population rises to dozens of billions, It is possible that there will be increasing social and economic pressures to such an extent that resorting to other protein sources such as vegetables or insects may become fashionable or standard choices.

It will be impossible for the world population of humans to reach dozens of billions without us finding a way to manufacture water and some artificial way to control the atmosphere because that sort of a population will result in the destruction of most forests/jungles.

Did they ever claim that their product was healthier? I don’t think so. The idea was to make something with a smaller carbon footprint than a beef burger.


They were trying to subconsciously tell us it is healthier than beef.

I can’t tell if you’re serious, but seriously hope you are not.