PETA’s $1 million prize for “in vitro” meat


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Chicken McNuggets from a test tube? The New York Times reports that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants to pay $1 million for ‘fake meat.’

For several years, scientists have worked to develop technologies to grow tissue cultures that could be consumed like meat without the expense of land or feed and the disease potential of real meat. An international symposium on the topic was held this month in Norway. The tissue, once grown, could be shaped and given texture with the kinds of additives and structural agents that are now used to give products like soy burgers a more meaty texture.


But the offer has been wildly controversial at PETA offices. Ingrid Newkirk, one of the organization’s founders, said the decision to pay for a prize caused ‘a near civil war in our office.’ Many PETA members, the New York Times reported, ‘are repulsed by the thought of eating animal tissue, even if no animals are killed.’

An announcement on the PETA website states:

‘In vitro meat production would use animal stem cells that would be placed in a medium to grow and reproduce. The result would mimic flesh and could be cooked and eaten. Some promising steps have been made toward this technology, but we’re still several years away from having in vitro meat be available to the general public.... ‘

PETA is offering a $1 million prize to the contest participant able to make the first in vitro chicken meat and sell it to the public by June 30, 2012.

The contestant must do both of the following:

• Produce an in vitro chicken-meat product that has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh to nonmeat-eaters and meat-eaters alike. • Manufacture the approved product in large enough quantities to be sold commercially, and successfully sell it at a competitive price in at least 10 states.

Judging of taste and texture will be performed by a panel of 10 PETA judges, who will sample the product using a fried ‘chicken’ recipe from The in vitro chicken must get a score of at least 80 when evaluated in order to win the prize.


-- Alice Short