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Is cultivated "meat" unnatural? Is meat today natural?

Episode summary

While many wonder about the technological hurdles preventing cultivated meat from entering commercial markets, fewer ask a more basic question: will people actually eat it, or will they find it too unnatural? In this episode, we're joined by Cor van der Weele, emeritus professor in philosophy from Wageningen University, who has had a front-row seat to the past 15 years of shifting perceptions of this technology. We'll dive into how a philosopher thinks about “naturalness”, what are the public concerns and the idealistic visions of a cultivated meat future, and why mixed feelings about this innovation could be a healthy sign of progress. 

[ Transcript available ]

About Cor van der Weele

Cor van der Weele is an emeritus professor of humanistic philosophy at Wageningen University and Research. She was trained as a biologist and a philosopher and wrote her PhD thesis in the philosophy of biology. Cor has been studying changing perceptions of meat and cultured meat for the last fifteen years, reflecting on the role of cultured meat in protein transition developments. More generally, she is interested in processes of societal change and mechanisms of selective attention. She has conducted some focus groups with citizens and reflected on their hopes, worries and other responses. In later focus groups she spoke with farmers, companies and other stakeholders, wondering if and how cultured meat might be an opportunity for farmers instead of a threat.


Background reading and resources

Report: Cultivated meat and seafood: State of the industry report (Good Food Institute, 2024)

Podcast series: Meat: the four futures (TABLE, 2023)

Podcast episode: Alternative meat - utopia or dystopia? (TABLE, 2023)

Article: How to Save Cultured Meat from Ecomodernism? Selective Attention and the Art of Dealing with Ambivalence (Cor van der Weele, 2021)

Article: How Normal Meat Becomes Stranger as Cultured Meat Becomes More Normal; Ambivalence and Ambiguity Below the Surface of Behavior (Cor van der Weele and Clemens Driessen, 2019)

Vittles article: The Pig in the Backyard (Hester van Hensbergen, 2020)

Article: Emerging profiles for cultured meat; ethics through and as design (Cor van der Weele and Clemens Driessen, 2013)

Article: Can technology save animals and satisfy meat eaters (Patrick Hopkins and Austin Dacey, 2008)

Museum exhibit: Disembodied Cuisine (2003)

Video: Launch of world's first cultured meat hamburger (2013)


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