Raising the steaks

Our view : PETA's $1 million prize puts the mock in meat alternatives

April 27, 2008

Finally, an answer for that age-old question: What part of the chicken does the nugget come from? Answer: maybe not from a chicken at all. The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is offering a $1 million prize for laboratory-produced meat that tastes like fried chicken.

Of course, there's a lot of fried stuff that tastes like chicken, but PETA is quite firm on the laboratory bit. They expect scientists to grow the meat in vitro - without killing any animals.

The chances of anyone cashing this particular check look pretty slim. PETA expects the product to be sold to the public by June 2012 (good luck with that timetable, Food and Drug Administration), to be available in at least 10 states (Attention shoppers, deep-fried non-living flesh samples on aisle 12), and to be priced competitively with chicken, which, as any Eastern Shore poultry farmer will tell you, is pretty durn cheap right now.

But the offer does raise some interesting questions about the animal rights movement. Is growing meat from stem cells an ethics-free exercise? Would bioengineering a brain-dead chicken meet the requirements? And what kind of vegan would encourage meat consumption?

We oppose animal cruelty, but PETA's views on the subject are often beyond the pale. Even for it, this is a little goofy. What's next, a soylent green cooking contest? A Dr. Frankenstein line of cold cuts?

If PETA really wants to take animals off the menu, it would do better investing in biofuel. Alternative energy speculators have caused feed prices to skyrocket. When steak hits $10 a pound, people tend to eat a whole lot less of it.

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