Lab-grown meat is a new technique that may lead to the mass production of meat reared not on the farm, but in the laboratory. Techniques used will be that of tissue engineering for production of in vitro - lab grown -- meat for human consumption.
Why should I be aware of this?
- With lab-grown meat it will be possible to control the nutrients. For example in vitro meat, Omega 6 fatty acid, which can cause high cholesterol and other health problems, can be replaced with Omega-3 fatty acids, which is a healthy fat.
- Lab-grown meat could also reduce the pollution that results from raising livestock. It will also do away with the need for drugs that are used on animals raised for meat.
Lab-grown meat and environment
As lab-grown meat will be produced where it is consumed, a lot of energy could be saved on transportation alone. It will not be necessary to transport animals hundreds of miles from farm to slaughterhouse before shipping their meat to market. Lab-grown meat would generate less pollution compared to factory farming, significantly reducing ground water and soil contamination from nitrogen, phosphorous and heavy metals while lowering emissions of methane, a major greenhouse gas.
All about lab-grown meat
Scientists have discovered that a single muscle cell from a cow or chicken can be isolated and divided into thousands of new muscle cells. Experiments with fish tissue have created small amounts of in vitro meat in NASA experiments researching potential food products for long-term space travel, where storage is a problem.
Meat using cloned animal cells
A group of scientists believes it could be possible to mass-produce meat using cloned animal cells well within the next decade. This lab-grown "cultured meat" will not only be healthier and safer to eat than meat sliced from slaughtered animals, but could theoretically be produced without harming or killing a single sentient animal.
As the animal cells would be totally lacking a central nervous system, pain receptors or a brain, they would be incapable of suffering like living creatures. If it turns out to be technologically feasible and commercially successful, mass-produced cultured meat could radically transform the animal agriculture industry and vegetarianism.
Muscle tissue in vitro was first grown by Australian laboratory SymbioticA, followed closely by a team of NASA scientists.
Still in embryonic stage
Even though this technology is still in an embryonic stage, researchers are hopeful that progress can be made relatively fast. The development of a highly nutritive growth medium and sophisticated bioreactors have been identified as crucial to moving forward. In addition, far more advanced biotechnology would be needed to produce "cuts" of meat like steak or turkey breast because these would require a complex circulatory system to deliver nutrients throughout the muscle during growth.
However, researchers believe that the problems faced so far can be resolved but depends on the amount of money that is invested in advancing the technology. A research group in the Netherlands is leading the way toward developing meat substitutes using cell cultures. In the US, Washington D.C.-based nonprofit New Harvest is helping fund research and providing a forum for sharing scientific innovations.
Cultured vs. conventional meat
Based on available knowledge proponents of this technology are hopeful that and theorize that lab-grown meat can be produced cheaply, and will reduce the harm done by the world's current meat-based diet to human health and safety, the environment, impoverished people and animals.
As cultured meat would be grown in sterile surroundings, they would be free from contamination (e.g., bacteria from fecal matter) such as found in factory farms, slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants. As the sources of cells will be tested thoroughly for disease, there will be no possibility of meat-borne pathogens, such as Salmonella, E. Coli, Bird Flu and Mad Cow Disease.
- With a single cell you could theoretically produce the world's annual meat supplyclaims
- Meat consumption in developing countries continues to increase, having doubled over the last 20 years.
Widespread consumer acceptance of cultured meat will depend on many factors – including taste, price and safety. Mass acceptance of cultured meat could happen first in small prosperous countries like the Netherlands where such impacts are already being felt, followed by developing regions like Asia, where population growth and the rising demand for meat have combined to create food and resource shortages.
More on Lab-grown meat
What can I do to help
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- Paper Says Edible Meat Can be Grown in a Lab on Industrial Scale
- How Lab-Grown Meat Could Revolutionize Vegetarianism and the World