By Tom Woolman, poultry industry consultant
Gregg Wallace and Michel Roux Jr. are tucking into a juicy steak.
“That is unreal” says Michel, his eyes widening in delight.
“Proper melt in the mouth quality” says Gregg, smacking his lips.
But this is no ordinary piece of meat. This meat has been cultured in a laboratory from human flesh.
Gregg Wallace: The British Miracle Meat is a parody of his well known ‘Inside the Factory’ series, which cleverly critiques the cost of living crisis and our endearing trust in complex technological solutions to today’s problems.
Although the mocumentary starts off in familiar territory, as the programme goes on it becomes more bizarre, with Gregg interviewing hard up donors who are having body parts sliced off in return for hard cash.
The social media reaction has been typically engrossing, with a raft of viewers failing to realise that the programme was a joke. This is hardly surprising, given the new landscape of meat substitutes and imitation products.
You don’t have to go far on the internet to find someone advocating lab grown meat as the answer to the climate crisis. Despite earnestly rejecting ‘factory’ farms, people like George Monbiot are advocating that we live off protein cooked up in large industrial buildings.
The programme playfully highlights a core theme of social policy – how do the poorest in society access affordable food? We in the poultry industry are well placed to meet this need, and I believe we can do it in a way that is a lot less sinister than some of the alternatives which are currently being touted.
Food production is in the hands of thousands of farmers spread across the country, whose farms support other local people and small businesses. I’m not sure that trading this for a small number of large energy-hungry factories is necessarily the answer.
As these technologies become more widespread, poultry is going to have to differentiate itself from faceless corporate protein producers. Luckily this is where farming businesses have an edge. If they are willing to share their stories then they will drive loyalty to their products.
In the meantime, I would heartily recommend that you watch Gregg Wallace’s latest offering on Channel 4. Just make sure you don’t have your dinner on your lap when you do so.