We Shall Escape the Absurdity of Growing a Whole Chicken in Order To Eat the Breast or Wing

Winston Churchill? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Scientists have successfully produced meat in culture without the need to grow an entire animal. Apparently, long ago Winston Churchill envisioned this possibility, and he predicted that chicken wings would be created without growing a full chicken. Would you please locate Churchill’s remarks on this topic?

Quote Investigator: The December 1931 issue of “The Strand Magazine” published an article by Churchill titled “Fifty Years Hence” that presented many speculations about the future including a remark about growing chicken parts. 1 “Popular Mechanics Magazine” reprinted the essay in March 1932. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

With a greater knowledge of what are called hormones, i.e., the chemical messengers in our blood, it will be possible to control growth. We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.




In the same article Churchill commented optimistically on the aesthetic qualities of the futuristic repast:

The new foods will be practically indistinguishable from the natural product from the outset, and any changes will be so gradual as to escape observation.

In March 1933 “Reader’s Digest” published “The World We’ll Live In: Marvels of Tomorrow Predicted by Prophets of Today” which included a quotation from Churchill: 3

Proteins and animal food will be grown in laboratories. “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat a breast or a wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium,” predicts Winston Churchill.

In 1999 the 21st century was beckoning, and the Associated Press recounted some of the predictions of yesteryear: 4

Winston Churchill predicted, among other things, the growing of animal parts for supper.

“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.” His 1932 article for Mechanics Illustrated was titled “Fifty Years Hence.”

QI does not know why “Mechanics Illustrated” was cited above instead of “The Strand Magazine” or “Popular Mechanics Magazine”

In conclusion, in 1931 Winston Churchill did forecast a revolution in the production of meat within fifty years. He should receive credit for the words he wrote at that time.

Image Notes: Picture of fried chicken pieces from sharonang at Pixabay. Portrait of young Winston Churchill circa 1900 from the collection of the Imperial War Museum; accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

(Great thanks to Eric Nielsen, Joel S. Berson, Margaret Lee, and Charles Doyle whose discussion led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Also, thanks to Richard M. Langworth for the entry on this quotation in the reference “Churchill By Himself”.)

Notes:

  1. 2013 December 12 (Kindle Edition Date), Churchill By Himself (Winston Churchill’s In His Own Words Collection), Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, Biotechnology: We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken. (This reference cites “The Strand Magazine”, Dec. 1931)(Kindle Location 17039)
  2. 1932 March, Popular Mechanics Magazine, Volume 57, Number 3, Fifty Years Hence by Winston Churchill (Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer), Start Page 390, Quote Page 397, Popular Mechanics Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1933 March, Reader’s Digest, Volume 22, The World We’ll Live In: Marvels of Tomorrow Predicted by Prophets of Today, Start Page 30, Quote Page 32, The Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, New York. (Verified on paper)
  4. 1999 March 4, Statesman Journal, It’s Almost 2000: Do You Know Where Elektro Is? (Associated Press), Quote Page 8D, Column 3 and 4, Salem, Oregon. (Newspapers_com)