Cultured meat, also known as “in vitro meat” or “laboratory meat,” is grown in a laboratory from animal stem cells. The synthetic protein obtained not only has potential medical applications, but may also be used for human consumption. It presents an alternative to industrial livestock production, which is inefficient and time-consuming, requires a lot of land and water, and, last but not least, depends entirely upon taking the lives of animals. Cultured meat is still in its infancy; its development is not nearly advanced enough for large-scale production. However, the first cultured hamburger, developed at Maastricht University and presented to the public in 2013, has already been served. While it seems likely that cultured meat will be used to create an alternative to existing products such as hamburgers, sausage, or steak, the technology may also usher in an entirely new food culture.
Next Nature Network is an organization that investigates innovative and sustainable ways to deploy technology and biology for new forms of nature. One of its areas of interest is the potential for in vitro meat to be used in kitchens of the future. This environmentally-conscious organization was founded in 2005 by philosopher-artist Koert van Mensvoort (Veldhoven, 1974) and designer-editor Hendrik-Jan Grievink (Heerde, 1977). A recent project—in collaboration with Eindhoven University of Technology—resulted in the 2014 publication of The In Vitro Meat Cookbook, illustrated by Silvia Celiberti (Bologna, 1986). It describes forty-five speculative (and some quite bizarre) recipes for cultured meat, such as bone marrow cocktail, knitted steak, and meat fruit pie. The book includes recipes, drawings, and essays from a variety of scientists, activists, philosophers, professional cooks, photographers, and illustrators.
The In Vitro Meat Cookbook is not just a fictional cookbook. As industrial livestock production grows apace with destruction of untouched wilderness, the book addresses the highly relevant issues of sustainability, food shortage, animal abuse, and culinary innovation. The work offers a speculative but visually persuasive representation of the future of the meat industry and stimulates discussion of these topics.
Next Nature Network is one of the 26 designers and studios that are selected for the group show Dream Out Loud – Designing for Tomorrow’s Demands. The exhibition can be visited from 26 August 2016 in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Read more about the exhibition or order tickets.