science of us

What Should We Call Frankenmeat?

Photo: Impossible Burger

As reported in this entertaining Bloomberg story, lab-grown meat — the sci-fi-esque substance touted as an answer to the environmental hazards of raising livestock — is still looking for something to call itself. (Beyond “lab-grown meat,” which already topped an earlier survey.) Among the leading contenders: “clean meat,” which has been deemed misleading since “clean” doesn’t translate into other languages, diet-wise – and because the meat industry objects to the implication that regular meat would therefore be dirty; “cell-based” meat, which isn’t overly catchy; and “lab-produced cultured protein,” which doesn’t roll off the tongue but does feel appropriately awkward. Plain old (vague old?) “cultured meat” has also been suggested.

The goal would be something accurate and transparent that also helps consumers get past the “ick” factor. For now the industry is being called “cellular agriculture,” which is so deceptively mild that I glazed past it on first reading. Though as the Bloomberg writers note, “Eventually, consumers will develop their own shorthand” for these science-generated meat alternatives — “for good or for ill.”

I think that’s already “frankenmeat,” which has been around since at least 2011, although I’m now entertaining myself by coming up with terrible alternatives: GrowMeat. ManuFlesh. Okay, yes, this is hard.

What Should We Call Frankenmeat?