Earlier today I wrote about the March Against Monsanto, a march against the largest company that creates genetically modified seeds, which later become part of genetically modified foods. GMOs are just one way that scientists are altering the way food has been created, grown, raised and produced for the majority of human history.
In-vitro meat, or cultured meat, is another scientific method of creating food. In-vitro meat is grown in a laboratory from actual animal tissue, so it’s an animal product, not a meat substitute.
Buying in-vitro meat at the butcher counter is years and years away, but the New York Times reports that one of the scientists who works with cultured meat, Dr. Mark Post from the Netherlands, may be ready to give the world its first taste of in-vitro meat, a five-ounce hamburger that’s made from approximately 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue.
The cost for this first in-vitro burger? About $325,000, provided to Post by an anonymous donor.
This has me both excited and terrified at same time. Terrified, because like GMO foods, we have no idea how our bodies will react to laboratory grown meat. We don’t know what type of impact eating in-vitro meat will have on our health.
I’m also excited because unlike GMO foods that are proving to be harmful to the environment and human health, in-vitro meats could curb some of the environmental damage done by meat production.
A 2011 study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, for example, showed that full-scale production of cultured meat could greatly reduce water, land and energy use, and emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases, compared with conventional raising and slaughtering of cattle or other livestock. Those environmental arguments will only gain strength, advocates say, as worldwide demand for meat increases with the rise of middle-class populations in China and elsewhere.
Since this is such a new area, it’s not possible to form any solid opinions about whether mass-produced in-vitro meat would be advantageous for both those who want to consume meat and the environment.
I’m also curious about the taste of this lab-grown meat, too. Post is quoted as saying the meat “tastes reasonably good” – not exactly what I want to hear when I’m asking for a recommendation for a burger.
Right now, Post is hoping that the unveiling of the first burger made from cultured meat will help to bring in more funding for his work. He’s upfront about saying that many, many adaptations need to happen before creating meat for public consumption would be reasonable financially.
What are your first thoughts about in-vitro meat?
Related on MNN: 10 tasty ways to enjoy fake meat
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