Bogdan Maran, Associated Press
Science-fiction took a step closer to reality as scientists in the Netherlands taste-tested lab-grown meat last week, derived from a single cell taken from cow muscle. Researchers hope to eventually make the protein source commercially viable, helping to feed a world where demand for meat will soon outstrip production capacity.
"It had a familiar mouthfeel," food writer and journalist Josh Schonwald said after biting into a piece of the cooked meat in front of reporters," but he also noted "the absence of fat" as a downside to the flavor and texture.
The process, as described by Scientific American, is appropriately surreal.
"The hamburger was grown in (vascular physiologist Mark) Post's lab using bovine skeletal muscle stem cells, collected from a piece of fresh beef. To do this, the cells were 'fed' calf serum and commercially available growth medium to initiate multiplication and prompt them to develop into muscle cells over time. Once they differentiated into muscle cells, they were given simple nutrient sources, such as algae extracts. The scientists also exercised the resulting muscle strands in a bioreactor by affixing them to a soluble sugar scaffold and slowly built tension using doughnut-shaped anchor points — essentially helping the muscle to 'bulk up.’ ”
The lab-burger is a long way from commercial viablity, but there are many watching anxiously to see if it pans out. Among these is the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, which has noted that more intense livestock production to feed growing demand for animal protein is an environmental and practical challenge.
"But such systems are a source of concern due to environmental impacts such as groundwater pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as their potential to act as incubators of diseases," warned a 2011 FAO report.
Others cheering for lab-meat success are vegans and animal rights groups, who may not be lining up themselves to try it but hope it might divert others from slaughtered meat.
"I don't need to," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals President Ingrid Newkirk told NBC News. "Any flesh food is totally repulsive to me. But I am so glad that people who don't have the same repulsion as I do will get meat from a more humane source. This gets rid of the yuck factor."
- Calliop, Jag and Tintin: Here's a look at 20...
- Little difference between PG-13 and R-rated...
- Walmart, Kmart 'Layaway Angels' spreading...
- What you think of welfare program depends on...
- Many Mormon missionaries who return home...
- Better than a raise: The smallest thing you...
- WestJet airline video goes viral as Santa...
- Putin defends Russian conservative values
- Can Mandela's legacy revive the GOP? 32
- India government likely to review... 25
- What you think of welfare program... 25
- Health care debate about presidential... 24
- Health care signups increase to... 23
- Looking beyond the premium is a... 17
- Putin defends Russian conservative values 13
- Little difference between PG-13 and... 13