Saturday, July 5, 2008

Meat In Space

I read a lot of news stories about meat and dairy products. These stories are usually pretty predictable. Either they report on some new study that says eat less meat and dairy products and more fruits and vegetables, or they are thinly-disguised reprints of industry propaganda. (You can always tell the latter. Usually they have titles like: "Scientists Say Drink Your Milk for Healthy Bones!")

Every once in a while, though, a news story comes along that is so incredible it deserves a column of its own. That's what I thought when I read a recent ABC News story about Morris Benjaminson, a researcher at Touro College Applied Bioscience Research Consortium, and his research into growing meat in the laboratory. You see, Mr. Benjaminson is concerned about our astronauts on a future two-year mission to Mars. He wants them to have fresh meat, and he's figured out how to raise that meat in space—without the animals!

This is exciting news, and to prove that I am not making this up, I've decided to give you some actual quotes from the story and my reaction to them.

  • "Benjaminson sliced 2-4-inch sections of flesh from large goldfish and placed them in a nutrient solution of fetal bovine serum, a liquid extracted from the blood of unborn calves. After a few weeks in the solution, …the fish meat grew by up to 16 percent."

    —This sounds so tasty that I bet the public will be signing up in droves for the next Mars mission. They say with Mars getting there is half the fun, and this sounds like the food on a luxury cruise!

  • "To test the lab-grown meat's appeal, his team showed it to colleagues to analyze for color and fried the meat to assess its aroma. Benjaminson said most considered the fish meat appetizing, although no one actually tasted it."

    —I bet they had to hold them back with chains.

  • "Benjaminson, himself, restrained from eating it since he was wary of possible infectious agents from the fetal bovine serum used to grow it. 'I'm just as careful about prions as the next man,' he said, referring to the infectious proteins behind mad cow disease."

    —What a wimp! Well, I'm sure our brave astronauts won't have these reservations. After six months or so living on liverwurst out of toothpaste tubes, they'll probably be more than ready to gorge themselves at an interstellar fish-fry.

  • "Eventually, Benjaminson hopes to improve the growth rate of his homegrown fish sticks and expand the technique for growing chicken and beef. The team also hopes to create a meat-growing machine to automate the process…"

    —Look for a late night "infomercial" on this machine, coming soon to a cable channel near you. Maybe George Foreman can even be bribed to put his name on it.

  • "But growing meat in space has some serious drawbacks to consider. William Knott, the chief of biological programs at NASA's Kennedy Space Center points out that, unlike tending a garden of vegetables, growing meat will consume critical resources that the astronauts need themselves, namely oxygen and carbon. 'The problem is the meat would compete with the astronauts' needs,' Knott said. For that reason Knott suspects the first Mars travelers will subsist primarily on a vegetarian diet.

    —Hmmm. Do you just suppose that the same arguments could be made for not raising meat on "Spaceship Earth?"

  • "Benjaminson is hoping his meat-growing technique might also find applications on Earth. For example, he wonders if some vegetarians would be willing to eat meat products that were not directly slaughtered."

    —Just what we poor, deprived vegetarians have been waiting for! (Some days I just can't control my cravings for the taste of goldfish in bovine serum.) Where do we sign up?!!!

  • "Benjaminson says he has already heard from executives at a poultry company… who expressed interest in using the technique to grow boneless chicken products."

    —Why does this not surprise me?

    As Mr. Benjaminson's research demonstrates, meat in space can be a scary proposition. How are astronauts supposed to stay healthy eating a bunch of goldfish like silly college boys? How can they be expected to maintain weightlessness after a heavy dinner of meat?

    In response, I think it's time that the people of the Earth declared space to be an official "Meat–Free Zone." There's certainly precedent for this. Antarctica has been a nuclear-weapons–free zone for more than 40 years, and I have yet to hear anyone gripe about that decision. Anyway, if you don't count that one tragic evening when a neutron boy from the planet Xerox went on a joyride on his Farleigh-Dickenson antimatter motorcycle with a Fleshburger Supreme from Saturn's Golden Rings franchise, we Earthlings are the only folks in the whole Universe still dragging meat into space.

    I'm going to circulate a petition opposing meat in space. Be sure to sign it. If we all act quickly on this thing, there's still a chance we can get space declared the "Official Meat–Free Zone of the 2008 Summer Olympics."


    Petition to Designate Space as a Meat and Dairy–Free Zone

    To The Honorable Ban Ki-moon

    Secretary-General of the United Nations

    We, the undersigned people of the planet Earth, respectfully petition the United Nations and its member nations to actively promote such international treaties as may be required to designate space, including all areas of the Universe outside of Earth and its atmosphere, as a Meat and Dairy–Free Zone.

    In support of our petition, we call to the attention of the General Assembly the following facts:

    • The production of meat and dairy products is the cruelest and most environmentally destructive of all human activity.
    • The consumption of meat and dairy products is the leading preventable cause of human disease and death.
    • The goal of space exploration should be to strive for higher values, not to export our vices. (What's next—gambling on Neptune? A smoking lounge on the International Space Station?)
    • Cows, pigs, chickens and fish get nauseous in zero-gravity, and their space suits fit poorly.

    For these reasons and others, we hope and trust that the people of the Earth, led by our United Nations, will work to accomplish this noble cause. Thank you.



Anonymous said...

"The production of meat and dairy products is the cruelest and most environmentally destructive of all human activity."

Does this concern you more than the nuclear movement that is picking up tremendous speed and Congressional and elite University support, all over America, and other parts of the world? How about the off-shore drilling movement near Florida and Anwar? How about the recent nuclear spill in a government laboratory, that had no protocols for accidents in place? That plutonium is in our environment.

Do you have a more exact source or link for this article? It sounds very interesting.

Due to our failing economy, it is most likely that the Space Program will be canceled, don't you think? Anyway, the toilets up there are not working, so they will be rethinking what they put in them. Non-meat waste is easier to flush away.

I thought the weightlessness was caused by a lack of gravity, It was really the meat?

Yes, let's petition. That is almost as good as voting.
Don't forget we need a 2/3 Democratic majority in the Senate, which doesn't now exist and will prevent Obama from making any change. He would only allow arugula in space.

Anonymous said...

"# For years we have had a whole class of people called "cheerleaders" who go to sporting events in miniature pleated skirts, with funny things called "pompoms" on both hands.
# Women in our society regularly wear uncomfortable shoes with spiked heels, and paint their fingernails red and their eyelids blue."