And you thought the stacks of vacuum-packed pork chops sold at Costco were creepy. At the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, scientists are growing meat in petri dishes, reports Nicola Jones in Conservation.
Utne Reader has been following the in-vitro meat discussion for several years and was interested to read Eindhoven University’s progress. There, researchers like Mark Post harvest myosatellite cells (stem cells responsible for muscle growth and repair) from living pigs, cows, sheep, turkeys, or chickens and turn them into thin strips of animal muscle, only about 200 micrometers thick, through a series of cell division and bundling.
Unsettling as the idea of manufactured meat sounds, the field’s leaders have the best intentions. Post hopes to end the “wasteful production of farm animals for food by helping to develop life-like steaks.” Like vegetarianism and veganism, the prospect could benefit the environment, Jones writes:
Largely because of the inefficiency of growing crops to feed livestock, a vegetarian diet requires only 35 percent as much water and 40 percent as much energy as that of a meat-eater. Future “in-vitrotarians” should be able to claim similar savings.
So, how does it taste? Don’t ask Post—he hasn’t eaten the pork grown in his lab. Jones explains:
The thing that enthusiasts for fake meat talk least about is its taste, perhaps because they haven’t tried it. In the U.S., researchers have largely avoided eating anything grown in the lab for fear of violating a Food and Drug Administration regulation . . . or of being seen as publicity hounds. Researchers generally believe that, if they can get the texture right, taste will follow—particularly once flavoring is added.
As far as [Post] knows, the only person who has swallowed a strip of the pale, limp muscle tissue is a Russian TV journalist who visited the lab this year to film its work. “He just took it with tweezers out of the culture dish and stuffed it in his mouth before I could say anything,” says Post.
Image by cbertel, licensed under Creative Commons.