We’ve all heard of Big Ben, and Winchester Cathedral, and the Tower of London, and the many other tourist attractions in England’s capital city. Now there’s a new attraction ready to tempt the intrepid tourist.
It’s called a “fatberg.” That means it’s like an iceberg, except its made of congealed fat. They just found the largest fatberg yet, a 15-ton monstrosity of congealed fat, cooking oil, and used baby wipes, tossed down into the sewers of London before forming together in one huge, rank blob as big as a city bus. It’s in the sewers in the suburb of Kingston, lurking beneath the streets and clogging the flow of water so that people in the neighborhood can’t flush their toilets — which is, of course, how the fatberg came to be in the first place. The video footage released in hopes of making Brits think twice about what goes down the drain gives a sense of the colossal size of the disgusting object. Imagine the look of the 15-ton mass of fat and baby wipes. Imagine the smell of a glob the size of a double-decker bus.
Who needs the crown jewels? Let’s all go see the fatberg!
We’re moving closer to that Brave New World envisioned in many sci-fi books, one where all food is artificially generated in laboratories. This week the first lab-grown hamburger was consumed at a press conference in London.
The hamburger was created by taking stem cells from a cow, cultivating them in a laboratory, and growing them into strips of muscle that were then combined into a hamburger patty — with a little color manipulation to give it the red hues that people expect from a burger. The burger was cooked, appetizingly presented with bun, fresh tomato, and lettuce, and eaten. One sampler said it had “intense taste,” “the consistency is perfect,” and “it’s close to meat, but it’s not that juicy.” Another consumer said “[t]he mouthfeel is like meat,” and “the general bite feels like a hamburger,” but “[w]hat was consistently different was flavour.”
We’re still a long way from artificially produced meat being sold at the neighborhood grocery store. The process used to make the single patty was laborious; significant improvements, and mass production, would be needed to make the fake meat competitive from a pricing standpoint.
With the number of people in the world, the increasing demand for meat, and the ethical and environmental aspects of producing meat the “old-fashioned way,” with penned animals and slaughterhouses, it’s inevitable that we’ll move in the direction of mass-produced fake meat. We’ve apparently even developed the vocabulary to be used in testing such products: who ever heard of describing the “mouthfeel” of a real piece of meat? I have no doubt, though, that if fake meat becomes broadly available and is competitively priced, consumers will accept the “mouthfeel” of the product. We already eat a lot of fake, chemically created food, why should meat be any different? Just melt some cheese on it the next time.