It was 2020 when the first announcements were made. “The beginning of the end of factory farming,” came the headlines. “Light at the end of the food crisis tunnel.” “Playing God: a victory for activists.” I only skimmed over the articles at the time, but the gist was that laboratories had successfully grown edible meat from individual stem cells. It was a steak not cut from an animal, but grown from cloned cells. Anyone who had been paying attention to that sort of thing would have known that there had been scares over food shortages for some time. A growing human population, combined with the debates over deforestation and the emissions from farmed animals and people started to tell us that what we were eating just wouldn’t be sustainable for very long. I suppose animal rights groups had their place as well: all those vegans, claiming the rest of us were barbarians for obeying our nature. Not eating meat at all wasn’t an option, obviously. We’re omnivours: we need to eat meat. It’s natural, it’s the food chain. But all this panic and activism began to push for the regulation or even the closure of classical farming. It pushed for new ways to produce and consume meat. It pushed for DaisyMeat.

I hadn’t paid an awful lot of attention to it at the time – it wasn’t the only story in the news – but one of the kids had a school project on the subject a while back where I had to look it up for him. The researchers had taken cells from a beef cow that they had called, predictably, Daisy. Rather than clone her the traditional “Dolly the Sheep” way, they were aiming for a purely cellular reproduction method. No new animals, no new lives, just a lump of cells of muscle tissue that would never grow into the rest of the cow. It would be meat that would never be conscious. It would never need to eat grass or produce methane or go to slaughter. I had to admit, they were smart. It was just a shame it took so long to be worth eating. The first steak was described by the first scientists who consumed it as “edible and almost recognisable as beef.” We put that quote on the poster that George had to make for school.

It was 2025 by the time DaisyMeat was on the shelves. Only in theory, of course; it was still far too expensive for the supermarkets. But nevertheless, the tests were passed and the red tape was cut and a new era of meat was ready to begin. Our first impression of the new delicacy was through journalists trying it on live TV, then it came up in the odd strange cooking show and I believe it was offered in some rich people’s restaurants. But the streamlining of the production system was improved quite swiftly once the public opinion improved via the upper class reviews and I remember the first time I saw “DaisyMeat” mince on sale at the supermarket down the road. It was still too pricey for me though, and marketed as “cruelty-free” health food. Some of my friends tried it as an experiment and considered it strange and mediocre. I suppose most of their sales must have come from vegetarians who wanted to eat meat and normals who wanted to be vegetarian. 

It wasn’t until 2029 that I purchased my first DaisyMeat readymeal, with hoisin vegetables and rice. It tasted okay. It tasted like beef. It was beef, biologically speaking. The texture was a little different but other than that, it was pretty spot on. All from that one cow, all those years ago. Science is amazing. And eating Daisy is so much more environmentally friendly than those primitive farming methods, isn’t it? Needed to do my bit. I’m no activist but I’m a modern man and I suppose the vegans got their way in the end. It became normal to care. The end of fossil fuels, going plastic-free, and DaisyMeat. It just became how we lived. Soon, the Daisy labs began popping up instead of arable farmland. The procedures improved, the costs reduced. After a while, DaisyMeat was even cheaper than traditional meats and soon food from primitively farmed, living animals became only available to the wealthy. It’s a rather strange thought, with hindsight, but it all happened very steadily and somehow very far away, didn’t it? When you’re busy with your own life you don’t think to worry about things like that. The years passed, the kids grew up, and DaisyMeat was just another aspect of time passing like the music changing and the technology developing.

It was 2042 when we realised that Daisy was still conscious. It was advances in neuroscience that accidentally stumbled across muscle cells perceiving pain in their own right, regardless of the presence of a central nervous system. This research was transferred to Daisy cells and, sure enough, she was still perceiving pain. It was impossible to discern the truth of the issue at the time, the media was so full of controversy. Once the general public caught wind that Daisy had been “feeling” everything this the whole time, there were a lot of protests, a lot of investigations, probably far more than the rest of us heard of after the industry inevitably tried to hush it all up. People were outraged that this “cruelty-free” product was actually far from it. We hadn’t reduced the suffering, we had only condensed it all onto one animal.

It’s 2055 and George is bringing his baby round so the new wife as made a nice DaisyMeat lasagna for us all. Well, we’re omnivours, aren’t we? We need to eat meat. It’s natural, it’s the food chain.