How would you feel eating a piece of steak that was grown in a laboratory? A new technique being developed by scientists allows the removal of muscle cells from an animal painlessly through a small needle. The cells are cultivated in a Petri dish that is the same temperature as the animal the cell was extracted from. When the cell sits in the Petri dish it is provided with glucose, amino acids, and minerals. To keep the cells stimulated and growing the “meat batter” is stretched to imitate exercise on large plastic sheets. After a certain amount of time, a thin piece of meat is peeled off the sheet and rolled into hamburger meat.
Jason Matheny, a college professor at the University of Maryland is leading the project. As a vegetarian, his hope is that the entire world will eventually be supplied with this meat and animal cruelty will be cut out of the picture.
When asked, most vegetarians said that they would not switch back to eating meat regardless of how it was made. However, they were excited by this method of getting meat for nonvegetarians. Scientifically simulating meats would allow people who eat meat to continue to do so but remove the factor of animal cruelty. The world’s largest animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have coined and are promoting the term “murderless meat.”
The advantages of meat made through technology are significant. 40 billion animals are killed for food each year. If the number of factory farm animals decreases, the amount of water and land pollution caused by animal waste would be greatly reduced too. Many common health problems that are acquired through meat eating would be reduced like mad cow disease and avian flu. The antibiotics, steroids, and chemicals that meats contain won’t be a problem anymore. Meat made through this technological process will not have fat or can be replaced with a healthier fat.
Nutritionists are stressing the idea that if America doesn’t cut down on it’s meat consumption, a healthier country with less disease won’t be a possibility. In small amounts it is a good source of protein but not the excessive amounts that are bought or served in restaurants throughout the United States.
Recently, the Dutch have invested $5 million to “grow” pork via stem cells. Scientists think that ground meat could be produced within six years if they can amass sufficient funding. Right now, it costs $5,000 to produce just one pound of meat! If the demand for the product goes down though, the price could be cut to a thousand times less. Although some people feel that this meat is too synthetic and just plain weird, the reality is that the food is not artificial. The only difference between this murderless meat and regular meat is that animals won’t have to be killed.
Many commonly eaten foods are man-made, like cheese, wine, and tofu. Despite what some people may think, this process is very different than cloning. The cells that produce the meat are the same type that we produce when we exercise. If we were cloning the meat, germ line cells would be grown and the meat would then be fake.
As of now, taste, cost, safety, nutrition, and how willing consumers would be to try something new, stands in the way of the murderless meat’s success. People may never want to eat meat that was created in a tube but scientists will never know until they try. Who knows, maybe in a few years machines like bread makers will produce meat overnight. Think about that sitting on your kitchen countertop!