I have had a longstanding interest in non-animal based meat production. I do not believe humans will ever stop eating meat, but if meat could be made via stem cells --and if it is just as tasty and healthy -- I believe most people would eventually be willing to change over...
This would prevent the misery of untold billions of animals currently being bred and slaughtered solely for consumption. There is nothing theoretically preventing such a breakthrough, it's just a question of figuring out the science and how to scale it.
The research in this area has been improving every year. There are approaches growing meat in vats, using nutrients made from mushrooms. One set of DNA would theoretically be adequate to feed the entire world. Also, that DNA could come from a prize winning bull or chicken with optimal characteristics. In addition, control over the nutrients feeding the growth of the muscle could lead to far healthier meat than could be produced from a live animal.
Now PETA has announced an X-Prize incenting the development of marketable in vitro meat (sometimes called "shmeat," which is a highly unfortunate acronym.) They're offering $1m to the company that can meet their criteria. From their site:
"Scientists around the world are researching or seeking the funds to research ways to produce meat in the laboratory—without killing any animals. In vitro meat production would use animal stem cells that would be placed in a medium to grow and reproduce. The result would mimic flesh and could be cooked and eaten. Some promising steps have been made toward this technology, but we're still several years away from having in vitro meat be available to the general public.
PETA is now stepping in and offering a $1 million reward to the first scientist to produce and bring to market in vitro meat.
Why is PETA supporting this new technology? More than 40 billion chickens, fish, pigs, and cows are killed every year for food in the United States in horrific ways. Chickens are drugged to grow so large they often become crippled, mother pigs are confined to metal cages so small they can't move, and fish are hacked apart while still conscious—all to feed America's meat addiction. In vitro meat would spare animals from this suffering. In addition, in vitro meat would dramatically reduce the devastating effects the meat industry has on the environment.
Of course, humans don't need to eat meat at all—vegetarians are less likely to get heart disease, diabetes, or various types of cancer or become obese than meat-eaters are—and a terrific array of vegetarian mock meats already exist. But as many people continue to refuse to kick their meat addictions, PETA is willing to help them gain access to flesh that doesn't cause suffering and death."
This is something I'd like to help make happen, either through investment or partnership. If anyone out there in blog land is interested in working on the same thing, please contact me.