The whole point of test tube beef was supposed to be finding a better alternative to the real deal than those hockey puck-esque Boca burgers currently acquiring freezer burn behind your half-eaten carton of Ben & Jerry’s. But the Google-funded meat matter that debuted in London this week still doesn’t pass muster with one of the world’s largest groups of vegetarians: India’s Hindus.
The Wall Street Journal‘s India Real Time blog reached out to Chandra Kaushik, the president of a prominent New Delhi-based Hindu nationalist group, to get his take on the artificial version of a food that’s taboo on account of the cow’s “sacred status” in Hinduism. He’s not convinced it’s any better than the real thing, vowing that he “will not accept [beef] being traded in a market place in any form,” even if said form doesn’t come from a cow at all.
Manish Jain, the founder of Indian Vegan, agrees, telling India Real Time, “The process might not involve the slaughter of the animal, but that doesn’t make it any less non-vegetarian.” Of course, that begs the question of just what a vegetarian item is if not a food that doesn’t involve the slaughter of an animal, but that question’s far from new; Michael Specter wrote a long-form piece on lab-grown meat and the ethical issues surrounding it for The New Yorker a couple of years ago.
Leaving the tricky question of whether it’s okay to eat something that tastes like meat even if it technically isn’t meat aside, this doesn’t bode particularly well for lab-grown beef’s prospects as a substitute for the real deal as well-established as tofu or tempeh. That, and its current $30/pound price point.