Cultured Meat and Three Futures for Flesh

February 28, 2018 (Wednesday) / 5:00 pm6:30 pm

Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

Cultured Meat and Three Futures for Flesh

Benjamin Wurgaft

Visiting Scholar in Anthropology, MIT

Laboratory-grown meat, also called ‘cultured meat,’ has loomed large in the public imagination ever since 2013, when the Dutch scientist Mark Post created the world’s first cell-cultured hamburger. Could using cell culture and tissue engineering techniques to “grow” meat from samples of animal muscle solve many problems plaguing industrial meat production? Find out as Benjamin Wurgaft draws from years of ethnographic research within the world of cultured meat.  In a wide-ranging talk that encompasses science, food, philosophy, and futurism, he describes three versions of the future of flesh that cultured meat could bring about: the utopian, the dystopian, and the weird.

Intellectual historian, Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft, is one part food journalist and one part European historian- an unlikely combination that is almost as baffling and intriguing as the subject of his current research: cultured meat. Wurgaft began his academic career with doctoral training in modern European intellectual history, specializing in the history of philosophy and social thought in Europe from 1800 to present. He now lives in Oakland, and currently works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he writes about laboratory-grown meat and the futures of food.

After some time of dabbling in food journalism, Wurgaft became increasingly involved in more scholarly forms of food writing, specifically in the area of food history. While his doctoral research in the history of philosophy and the history of food may not coincide, his foray into the world of “fake meat” has offered Wurgaft the opportunity to think critically about the past, present, and future of meat and it’s relationship to humankind. He’s keenly aware of the social and environmental potential, as well as the likely prejudice that cultured meat will face as it makes its way into stores around the globe.

In addition to his scholarly work, he regularly writes on contemporary food culture. His book "Thinking in Public: Strauss, Levinas, Arendt" was published by Penn Press in January 2016. He is @benwurgaft on Twitter.