CCRM’s intrepid communications summer student is back! Erin Sugar gets right to the meat of the issue in today’s Right Turn. Does it leave you hungry for more or salivating with anger?
Sometimes, an ordinary encasement of all-beef or pork salami is just not going to cut it. Thankfully, for you or the celebrity obsessed foodie in your life, the FDA-provoking company BiteLabs is endeavoring to produce a series of artisanal salami products made with 30 percent in vitro celebrity meat.
Without blinking an eye at the idea of a cannibalistic meal option, BiteLabs states: “We start with top-quality ingredients, and time-honored recipes for the creation of fine cured meats. We mix celebrity and animal meats, grown in house through a proprietary culturing process, into curated salami blends. Starting with biopsied myoblast cells, we grow our healthy, rich, meats in Bite Labs’ own bioreactors. Our process yields high-quality, luxury protein, in a sustainable manner that eliminates the environmental and ethical concerns associated with traditional livestock production.”
The current selection of potential high-end salami products includes James Franco, Jennifer Lawrence, Kanye West and Ellen DeGeneres; however, BiteLabs encourages its supporters to contact their favoured A-list celebs directly to gain their endorsement (and cells) for the project. BiteLabs’ streamlined website does not show any sign of comedic undertones, creating a sense of grave earnestness in their quest to convert the everyday animal consumer to high-end celebrity consumption. The inability to determine whether the company is serious about introducing celebrity meat to the public is what makes the website so effective and disturbing.
Last summer, the invention of the world’s first stem cell burger provoked discussion around the use of stem cells in food production. Spurring debate on the ethical repercussions of in vitro meat, as well as the cost and sustainability of the technology, the stem cell burger quickly entered and fell flat from the limelight. What I believe BiteLabs is trying to communicate with its aggressive and multi-faceted social media campaign is that the marketability of a product (even one that appears disgusting or distrustful) is dependent entirely on appearances. While critics of the stem cell burger protested that the technology was unnatural and reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster, if the same product were to be neatly packaged and highly publicized, the perception of the burger could be manipulated.
The campaign #EatCelebrityMeat uses the faddism of the food industry (whether it be dieting, GMOs, the locavore movement or in vitro meat) in order to communicate the volatile direction of consumer/celebrity culture. It appears to me that BiteLabs, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, wants consumers to be critical when digesting information that is spoon-fed to them each day, and to pay closer attention to the effects of advertising on society. It will be interesting to see whether the inclusion of celebrities in the in vitro meat discussion will influence public perception of stem cell research.
Whether Bitelabs is poking fun at Hollywood or is satirizing the new direction of stem cell food technology is yet to be determined, and I look forward to seeing what’s next in the company’s roll out plan. Personally, I hope it is a create-your-own salami flavour contest, in which case I will be spicy, full of bacon and teeming with heapings of youthful aspiration.
Here’s a video from BiteLabs. Judge for yourself whether this is the future of food production or a means for mocking celebrity culture. It’s a delicious conundrum.
Our regular feature, Right Turn, showcases the “lighter” side of stem cells and regenerative medicine. Every Friday, we will bring you cartoons, photos, videos and other content that may be just as thought provoking as the written submissions that you are used to finding here, but they definitely won’t be blogs.
As always, we welcome your feedback and we also welcome suitable submissions. Be creative! Use the right (!) side of your brain. Make us laugh! Let’s see if we can make this new direction a positive one for all of us. Send your submission to info(at)ccrm.ca.