February 21st, 2009

meat zen: in-vitro meat production and the environment

In these times of ever-increasing environment-consciousness and financial despair, is lab-grown meat an auspicious solution to many problems?

To grow meat on a large scale, cells from several different kinds of tissue, including muscle and fat, would be needed to give the meat the texture to appeal to the human palate.

“The challenge is getting the texture right,” says Matheny. “We have to figure out how to ‘exercise’ the muscle cells. For the right texture, you have to stretch the tissue, like a live animal would.”

Where’s the Beef?

And, the authors agree, it might take work to convince consumers to eat cultured muscle meat, a product not yet associated with being produced artificially.

“On the other hand, cultured meat could appeal to people concerned about food safety, the environment, and animal welfare, and people who want to tailor food to their individual tastes,” says Matheny. The paper even suggests that meat makers may one day sit next to bread makers on the kitchen counter.

“The benefits could be enormous,” Matheny says. “The demand for meat is increasing world wide — China ‘s meat demand is doubling every ten years. Poultry consumption in India has doubled in the last five years.

“With a single cell, you could theoretically produce the world’s annual meat supply. And you could do it in a way that’s better for the environment and human health. In the long term, this is a very feasible idea.”

Matheny saw so many advantages in the idea that he joined several other scientists in starting a nonprofit, New Harvest, to advance the technology.

2005: Paper Says Edible Meat Can Be Grown in Lab on Industrial Scale (quoted above)

2007: Vegans vs Vegetarians

2008 (april): Growing meat without growing animals

2008 (may): Will lab-grown meat save the planet?

2009: Pros of petri dish meat (not just ethical)


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