My partner and I are driving west, toward the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, listening to a Sirius XMU Program called Gorilla versus Bear (http://www.gorillavsbear.net). Most of the new/independent music that the kids are listening today sounds like watered down hits from the 80s to me, but I am probably just showing my age. In any case, as we head into wine country, the satellite radio keeps going in and out, its signal blocked by magnificent mountain ranges like the one shown here. My LSP and I must resort to amusing ourselves the old-fashioned way—no, not that you perverts. We discuss age-old questions that have long puzzled humanity: Who would actually win the battle between a gorilla and a grizzly bear? [I vote bear]. Wonderwoman vs Thor? [That’s pretty obvious]. But how about a Big Mac vs a hamburger grown from the stem cells of a dead cow’s shoulder? I vote for the laboratory version. Oh wait, since both kinds of artificial meat are produced in a lab, I should be more specific. My money is on the stem cell Schmeat.
I would rather eat a Schmeat burger than anything emerging from those hell holes marked by the Golden Arches. I proudly confess that I have not consumed a McDonald’s product for over twenty years now. I know that my partner occasionally eats food from Wendy’s when he is in a hurry, something he boasts about later when explaining his indigestion and noxious gas. His emissions are the only evidence of the event because he carefully removes the packaging from his car. His tidiness is more practical than hygienic: the smell of fast food wrappers has made me vomit in the past. I was probably sickened by the chemicals that were added to the meat and were still clinging to the refuse; I have also gagged in the presence of various cleaning fluids, especially window spray. As Jamie Oliver claims, McDonald’s meat is not fit for human consumption, for it is often prepared with toxic chemicals, including ammonia (http://documentarylovers.com/news/jamie-oliver-campaign-makes-mcdonalds-change-recipe/). In contrast, Professor Mark Post allowed tiny stem cells to develop in fetal-calf serum before serving up a solid patty seasoned with salt, egg powder, bread crumbs, red beet juice, and saffron. Quel delice! (http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/06/06/technology-schmeat-in-vitro-meat-burger.html).
Are you reacting with disgust, perhaps even shouting in horror “Ugh, fetus juice!” If so, I have a few pressing questions for you: How do you think that “real” cows are made? And what kinds of bodily fluids are first inside of and then drained from the beef, chicken, and fish that you so eagerly top with salt and pepper? I suppose that eating meat is essentially despicable, if you are opposed to such things as animal murder, slimy goo, smelly shit, and slippery intestines. [Aside: I hope that vegetarians are reading this with a deserved sense of superiority]. As for my fellow carnivores: Are you living in denial? Or do you accept the fact that as a meat/seafood eater you thrive on the slaughter and consumption of other living things; things that are filled with bile, blood, mucous, and feces? I think that Michael Pollan got it right when in The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), he praised hunting as an ethical practice that forces carnivores to experience and take responsibility for the effects of their lifestyle. At the same time, if you eat only some kinds of meat or fish, avoiding others because the animals are too “cute” and “fluffy” to kill, then you are a fool. However, if you do your best both to limit animal suffering and support the production of organic products as opposed to industrial farming, then you are doing a reasonably good job at being a rational human being. Still, logically speaking, you should be heading into the woods with blood-lust on your mind. You should be setting up a curing shack in your backyard and getting ready to practice evisceration. Then you should be inviting me over for a delicious meal.
As my LSP and I drove home from a weekend of wine tasting, gourmet food eating, and mountain hiking, we listened to radio reports about Mark Post and his expensive stem cell burger. It took three months and cost over $300, 000 to develop in his laboratory. That is another reason why I remain inclined to keep an open mind about Schmeat: it was prepared with intellectual passion and loving care. Those who laboured to invent it probably invested emotionally in their product, caring very much about the process as well as the final result, just like those wine makers, vinegar cooks, and fruit growers that I met in Summerland and along the Naramata Bench in British Columbia. I highly doubt that the McDonald’s Corporation or its underpaid workers care very much about their final product. Nor do I think that this company worries about the means of production, something that matters to me. That is why I found another BBC World News report far more shocking than the one about the creation and taste testing of Schmeat. It was about job satisfaction, or rather the lack thereof in contemporary society. A recent study revealed that only 19% of the American population takes any pleasure or satisfaction from employment. As someone who loves her job—it includes the craft of writing, the art of thinking, and the joy of continual learning—I was appalled. I would much rather purchase and consume products made by those who enjoy, and find a sense of identity from, making them. That is another thing that Michael Pollan got right, when in his new book called Cooked, he asked: “Is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?” I couldn’t agree more. Taking time to grow and prepare food matters, but important issues remain. Who should do this work? When and for whom? And with what kind of fetal serum?