Over at The New York Times's "Dot Earth" blog, Andrew Revkin reports on the first international conference on manufacturing meat:

The three-day meeting of the In Vitro Meat Consortium, held at the Norwegian Food Research Institute, is wrapping up today. (They might want to do something about that name.) It brought together biologists, engineers, government officials and entrepreneurs seeking – for both environmental and ethical reasons – to move from animal husbandry to technology as a means of providing the kind of protein people crave in a world heading toward 9 billion ever more affluent mouths. ...

[O]ne could envision someday a model, say, of a solar-powered facility in southern California or Singapore basically turning sunlight and desalinated seawater into growth medium and then tons of cruelty-free, sustainable nuggets of chicken essence. (The promoters of this technology don’t envision anything, for now at least, beyond nuggets and ground meat. No filet mignon.) ...

Of course, as Revkin notes, there are tons of caveats involved, not least of which being the "ewww" factor (of the three reporter–researchers at TNR, I was the only one who didn't find the idea inherently revolting). But as the world becomes richer and demand for meat skyrockets, it's easy to see this becoming the most economically and environmentally viable solution. And if even animal-rights advocates are on board, so much the better.

--Josh Patashnik