By Naven Jones, Freelance Investigative Journalist

Did you enjoy the burger you just ate at your local fast food joint? Did you think it was 100% USDA Certified Beef? It might not have been beef at all, but Meatelle. What is that you ask? A new meat substitute the industry is adopting that many will find alarming. I recently spoke to a representative of its manufacturer, Substitech. I did not like what I heard.

"Meatelle is the wave of the future," says  Mortimer A. Smith, a company spokesman. "It does not require the raising and slaughter of livestock, nor the growing of crops, so it does not tax our overstretched supply of farmland. We manufacture it in a facility near Cincinnati Ohio, and ship it to our clients from there. A single site is all we need."

Manufacture? That seems a strange way to describe producing something people will eat, so I asked him to elaborate. He explained that they simply mix the chemicals that make it in a lab, and get a substance that looks, smells and tastes like meat. It requires no refrigeration or freezing because it is completely inorganic. Meatelle becomes fully digestible and biodegradable after cooking, but can be stored indefinitely until then. He made it sound like a good thing, but the idea of eating a bunch of inorganic chemicals mixed in a lab gave me cause to pause. Smith said "I understand why you might feel that way. It is not unusual to fear the new and different, but we need this, the planet needs this. Its negligible carbon footprint and potentially limitless shelf life make it a very environmentally friendly green product. That is what we are all about at Substitech: substitutes for the unsustainable things of the past made possible through technology! Several clients are already using it."

When I asked him who the company's clients were, Smith would not say. He explained that they were not ready to go public with the fact that they are serving Meatelle yet, but it would be revealed when the time is right.

What one company spokesman says is never the whole story, so I reached out to Brandine University. I spoke with professors Richard Payne, MD and Martin Pratt, PhD. Both expressed concerns. "Synthetic edibles are on the horizon, there is no way of avoiding it," said Dr. Payne, "but Substitech has not done enough testing of Meatelle. I think that it is too soon to market it. They can make it into faux burgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fish: you name it, but have not convinced me it is safe."

"What is most upsetting about this is that they don't have to tell you," Dr. Pratt explained. "Since it is inorganic, laws and regulations applying to food do not cover it. The FDA does not even have the authority to regulate it. I won't eat it."

There you have it. That fast food burger you just ate may have been made of Meatelle, an artificial thing made of inorganic chemicals in a factory. It is manufactured by a corporation called Substitech.