Meet the new meat, pretty much the same as the old meat

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A Cultured Beef Burger made from cultured beef grown in a laboratory from stem cells of cattle is held by Mark Post of Netherland's Maastricht University, who developed the burger. (David Parry/AP)

The debate over what to call real meat grown from animal cells rather than animal slaughter is analogous to the 19th-century story of so-called artificial ice [“Cattle ranchers are asking: Who has the ‘beef’?,” news, March 6].

For nearly all of human history, the only ice we had was formed in nature. Enter the advent of refrigeration, and there was suddenly a much more efficient way of procuring ice. While the established ice-shipping industry railed against the disruption it called “artificial ice,” we all know that the end result of the new process was still the same: It’s just ice.

Similarly, what’s being called “clean meat” (both as a nod to clean energy and to its food-safety benefits) is no less real meat than ice produced by your freezer is real ice. Simply because meat has always been formed as animals’ bodies doesn’t mean that the process of growing meat from animal cells — without harming the animals — produces anything other than real meat.

And just as using ice cooled from filtered water is safer than consuming ice formed in lakes, eating meat that was grown rather than slaughtered avoids all types of food-safety problems. For example, one need worry less about intestinal pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella because clean-meat producers grow muscle, not intestines.

While “clean meat” is an appropriate term that’s helpful to use now, in the end, the most accurate way to describe this food may simply be “meat,” because that’s exactly what it is.

Paul Shapiro, Sacramento

The writer is the author of “Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World.”