In rare form, Meatpaper #3 outflanks the competition

Meatpaper Cover and spread

The Spring 2008 issue of Meatpaper, the magazine's third, is out and it's even better than the first two. One of the editors (Sasha Wizansky and Amy Standen) admits she has gone back to vegetarianism, and perhaps coincidentally there is a complicated new awareness to the array of articles and a little less fetishization of the flesh. If you think about meat, really think about it, you must also contemplate death, and that is what the most interesting of the pieces in this issue do.

Among the standouts: Novella Carpenter, to whose City Farmer blog and journalism pieces we frequently link, is the subject rather than author of a Q&A titled "Do farm animals survive by dying?" The photographs of her backyard turkey slaughter are stunning, and Carpenter's thoughtful defense of slaughter resonates. It's followed by an almost, but not quite, as persuasive interview with animal-rights leader and vegan Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, who believes we have no right to take the life of another sentient creature. A discussion of the butcher shops who quietly sell pork ("white steak") in Israel, an interview with the makers of a short film about a halal storefront slaughterhouse in New York City, and a first-person account by a chef who had to learn to become a butcher are also all well done, yet not at all dry. (OK, OK, I'll stop now.)

I was particularly fascinated by Colin Dickey's look at in-vitro cloned meat. (in December we linked to a BoingBoingTV video about SymbioticA, the Australian art collective mentioned in the piece that turns growing cloned meat into performance art.) Unfortunately lab-grown meat is not as victimless as its backers would like to believe: the crucial ingredient to culturing the meat is fetal bovine serum, "extracted from the still-beating heart of a calf fetus in utero." Both the calf and the cow die as result. And scientists call this progress?

I also have an article in it about eating sheep testicles in Tunisia, with ballsy photos (above) by my husband, but funnily enough it's one of the least Ethicureanish articles in the issue.

The issue is not online, but you can find it at major bookstores, and subscription is $28 for 4 issues. Also, if you live in the Bay Area, you can buy copies at the Meatpaper shindig this Sunday. They throw a great party. Bart and I'll be there, with Elanor from the Ethicurean — say hi!

9 Responsesto “In rare form, Meatpaper #3 outflanks the competition”

  1. Sharon Troy says:

    Very interesting. I'm not so sure I could stomach all the meaty photos, but I'm really interested in the concept. I will try to come by on Sunday!

  2. Charlotte says:

    So did any of you in the Bay Area go to the party? As a subscriber, I got the email invite but alas, couldn't fly in from Montana.

  3. stellastar says:

    Agreed! I thought this issue was a huge leap forward, and loved your article, Bonnie.

  4. Sara says:

    At first when I read your comments on the production of FBS I did not believe it. I am a masters student in molecular biology and have used FBS for several experiments (happily, none currently or predicted in the future) and had never had any idea. Digging into some research, I found this, which is very educational on the ethical and scientific issues surrounding the use of FBS - PDF

    One clarification I would like to make however, is that it is fairly clear that harvesting FBS is not the motivational reason for the slaughter of the cow and calf, more that the cow is already slated for slaughter due to illness or herd exhaustion, and extraction of FBS is more of a side recuperation of profits. Killing a potentially productive cow and calf (worth potentially around 1k in milk and meat production) for ~350ml of FBS (~$200) is economically unfeasible. I'm not saying that there are not (obvious) problems with how FBS is harvested, but I don't think the phrasing of your statement was correct.

    I am very surprised more by the fact that as a scientist, I have used this product and not been aware of its antecedents. I will see what I can do to bring this up in lab discussions. I feel that I should have already learned this in the course of my work.

  5. Do you have any more information on the lab-grown meat? I'd be very surprised if they have to continually re-harvest stem cells from fetal cows (I'm also suprised that they use heart muscle). Killing two cows to get x amount of meat doesn't sound that bad when compared to the huge amount of resources that goes into raising a cow to market weight, and of course the killing of all the cows to get "natural" meat.

  6. Bonnie P. says:

    Stellastar: Thanks!
    Sara: Sorry your comment languished in moderation, I overlooked it somehow. Thanks for the additional information, which may answer Anastasia's question. The FBS reference was a minimal one; I just found it surprising.

  7. Damn. I don't use cell culture very often, but when I do, FBS is one of the medium components. I thought it was just another carbohydrate rich medium, similar to what we grow yeast and bacteria on.

    I did a little research to see what it is about FBS that makes it necessary. Apparently some cultured cells need growth factors from the FBS. I'll have to look into whether or not the cells I use really need FBS or if they could make do with another type of medium.

    It looks like regular blood serum can be an alternative to FBS. Since FBS is very expensive (and has copious ethical problems, as Sara pointed out) I'd wager that any ventures into large scale bovine muscle (aka meat) tissue culture would use filtered bovine blood serum. An even better alternative would be to grow bovine growth factors in transgenic E. coli or some sort of blood culture - but as a plant scientist, I'm not sure how feasible these are.

    Despite the problems with harvesting FBS, I still beleive it is more ethical than normal meat production, if the assumption that fewer animals need to be slaughtered for the cultured meat than for an equivalent amount of natural meat holds true. If we also consider the decreased impact on the environment when less land is needed for growing feed and grazing, and all the waste and global warming gases that would never be produced, lab-grown meat becomes an even more attractive alternative.

    Thanks for making me think - and for making me realize that I should at least try to find an alternative to FBS in my cell culture experiments.

  8. Sara says:

    Bonnie, no worries, the weekend bug can get us all :) Thanks for catching it!

    Yes, I found it surprising too, which is really what upset me the most in this whole thing - I feel that someone *should* have told me about this issue when I started using FBS.

    Anastasia, there is definitely a lot of research about synthetic media. They don't have a universal synthetic yet but there are a couple different ones that work with various cell lines - Search 'FBS alternative' on Pubmed, I found a good chunk of papers.

  9. shelly says:

    Sounds like an interesting read.
    I'm not sure, though, why butcher shops selling pork in Israel is news. That's been going on for a long time. In fact, the Israeli gourmet supermarket chain Tiv Ta'am has been selling a variety of pork products for about seventeen years. And Freddy's butcher shop in Tel Aviv's Carmel shuk (outdoor market) is a well-known to those who prefer the other white meat.