Saturday, May 25, 2013

Print Your Meat

I've blogged in the past about the technological developments that I think will end the consumption of meat and other animal products -- the development of cheap synthetic alternatives. I've started to wonder if 3D printing could be the technology that makes all of this work. NASA appears to be getting into printed food as a way to feed astronauts, and as they note, there's room for the technology to become mainstream eventually. Venture capitalists are funding startups that develop the technology.

Early printed food is likely to be mediocre, but as the technology moves forward we'll be printing duplicates of the best ribeye and filet mignon in existence. When the printed meat is cheaper and better, there'll be no reason to do things the barbaric expensive old-fashioned way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As Matt Yglesias periodically points out, the substitute doesn't actually need to be better, so long as it's noticeably cheaper, and almost as good. That's why we consume a lot more margarine than butter.

They've already come up with fake chicken from vegetable protein that is all but indistinguishable from the real thing. Now they just need to be able to make it cheaply.

Beef apparently is trickier, but if they can come up with fake ground beef that is cheaper than the real thing, and has a taste and texture that's close enough that you can't tell them apart in a Big Mac, then the future is wide open, because they'll be able to sell a lot of that fake beef while they work on getting ribeye that's in the ballpark.

I expect that real beef will always be better than the fake stuff, but if the fake stuff is cheaper, then the real thing will become a luxury item, and factory farming of livestock will come to an end. And the sooner the better.