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Even with all the advances and regulations, the current meat industry is not without it's problems. It takes a surprising amount of resources, and some companies cut corners to save on expenses. However, meat is so delicious that it's hard to give up.
So what's the solution?
We actually have some ideas right now. Basically we take a cell culture and grow it into something edible. Since you don't need to raise animals, there's no question of inhuman treatment because what you're eaten never had a brain or consciousness. It likely isn't nearly as ecologically impacting given that the meat has far fewer bodily functions to maintain, also reducing the resource cost.
At least in theory.
In practice, it's a bit difficult to get the meat to grow like that, but we've definitely made some progress. Fictionland assumes we've overcome these hurdles or found some other workaround.
Less realistic Artificial Meat can be made by way of Matter Replicators.
Anime and Manga
- The manga Bio Meat is about this, except in this story, meat eats you.
- Another horror manga, Fourteen, also starts from this. This being a Surreal Horror, one of the artificial chickens eventually gains sentinence. And names itself George. And kills people.
- Transmetropolitan is set in the goodness-knows-what-year-it-is (literally) future, where you can eat any kind of animal (including humans) because of this.
- The Federation in Star Trek use Matter Replicators for most of their meat.
- Soylent Green
- 2001: A Space Odyssey - Dr. Floyd and his crew have sandwiches on the way to the crater dig, one being "something like" ham - they comment that they're getting better.
- Neuromancer by William Gibson had vat-grown flesh, which was cheaper than real meat. In a posh restaurant at the moon, the protagonist Case is chastised by his companion Molly for wasting a steak, which is expensive because "they have to raise an animal for years and then kill it."
- The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth has tumour meat cultures called "Chicken Little".
- Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel Delany has vat grown meat cultures from humans.
- So does Larry Niven's "Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing!" In a twist, the aliens growing the human meat paid lavish royalties to the human cell donors—who were still upset about it.
- Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin: One of Haviland Tuf's suggestions for dealing with Suthlam's overpopulation is to feed the people with meat from a meatbeast, which is described as a giant edible cancer.
- The Vorkosigan Saga has Vat Protein, grown meat flavored to taste like chicken, beef, etc. Primarily used by many advanced societies without mention, while some cultures prefer meat the old-fashioned way. (And for members of the former who get squicked by the latter, well, the best example is Cordelia, who grew up on Beta Colony, the most advanced planet in the Nexus, bravely chomping down on her son Miles' freshly caught and cooked catch of fish, when he was a young boy on Barrayar.)
- Although she didn't have any objections to field-butchered wild game in the first book (This may have been a side effect of being forced to live on oatmeal and salad dressing for several days).
- The heroine of John Varley's The Ophiuchi Hotline gets wealthy from developing a "bananameat" tree. Ostensibly the grafting of pork genes onto banana trees, the popularity of the meat's flavor is the result of including human DNA (the inventor's own).
- Con Sentiency.
- In Orion's Arm, artificial meat is common. However, they subvert the hell out of the "more humane" aspect, because in some places the same process is used to make tiny living things (often humanoid) with just enough intelligence to run away before the customer grabs and devours them.
- In Oryx and Crake, soy-based meat substitutes are common, as are "ChickieKnobs", derived from heavily genetically engineered chickens which are entirely lacking in nervous systems (so they feel no pain).
- All meat in The Culture is created in this fashion.
Live Action Television
- In Better Off Ted Veridian Dynamics has successfully produced artificial meat. Unfortunately it tastes like "despair" so there's still some progress needed.
- One episode Eureka has something go wrong with the chicken and turn everyone who eats it stupid.
Role Play Game
- GURPS Transhuman Space has this as the norm. Normal butchered meat is illegal and seen as disgusting and horrible barbaric.
- Urban Legends claim that certain fast food companies really source their meat from "Animal 57," genetically engineered blobs of flesh growing in tanks.
- When Kentucky Fried Chicken began to promote itself as "KFC," rumors soon circulated that "the government" was making them do this because supposedly its "meat" was too far removed from real chicken.
- The 'real meat' factory from Project Eden.
- The Beef Vat improvement in Civilization: Call to Power. A future age improvement that prevents starvation.
- Jack's world has "synth meat". Unfortunately, it doesn't satisfy the Gluttonies, who took up fetishistic cannibalism in life and are now condemned to spend eternity eating the other denizens of Hell and never feeling full.
- Another element of the punishment is that the denizens of hell taste like sulfur.
- The Redwall series has artificial milk, in the form of "greensap milk", supposedly the juice of a kind of tuber. Some plants do produce a milky fluid in real life, but the real-life stuff probably wouldn't be close enough to make cheese.
- Considering that this milky "sap" in every case I can think of contains a high concentration of latex-like substances, no... probably not good for cheese.
- Tumor beef, another amazing invention of Jobe Wilkins in the Whateley Universe. The United Nations sanctioned Jobe (yet again) for this.
- A McMeaties employee tells Zim how NASA developed a germ-resistant form of SPAAACE MEEAAT to use as food on deep-space missions. However McMeaties can't afford it so they make theirs out of napkins.
- In an episode of Future Food, Chefs Omar Cantu and Ben Roche play around with making artificial meat out of the food that we feed animals to make them tasty. Grain and beets and soy and other ingredients are made into artificial beef and chicken.
- Truth in Television: While we haven't come up with anything that can be used on an industrial scale, we have a number of ideas. Check out The Other Wiki here for more details.