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Waiting for Lab Meat

A pair of scientists have apparently figured out how to grow meat in a lab using stem cells in localized factories. I suppose we could call this the lab-to-table movement. They evidently think that will make a big difference in public acceptance of the idea of cultured meat.

The global demand for meat is steadily increasing. Left unchecked, it’s a trend that will be sure to result in increased environmental pollution, energy consumption, animal suffering, and the proliferation of animal-borne diseases. This is why cultured meat is increasingly being seen as a potential solution despite the “yuck” response that typically accompanies the prospect. Indeed, as illustrated in a Times editorial last year: “‘How absurd is it to imagine all our meat one day being produced by a similar process [tissue culturing]? Not much more absurd than it is to imagine all our meat continuing to be produced as it is now.”

As noted, it’s already possible to make meat from stem cells. The technique was devised by Maastricht University physiologist Mark Post, who assembled a 5-oz beef patty from thousands of tiny meat strips cultured from the stem cells of a single cow. It’s a technological advance that ScienceNow’s Kai Kupferschmidt believes could kickstart “the biggest agricultural revolution since the domestication of livestock.”

But according to biologists Cor van der Weele and Johannes Tramper in a new Science & Society paper, though the potential advantages of cultured meat are clear, there’s no guarantee that people will want to eat it. The mode of production, they argue, makes a difference for appreciation. To that end, they’ve developed an eco-friendly model for producing greener, ethical meat — one that involves small-scale local factories that are not only technologically feasible, but also socially acceptable. As per the title of their paper, they’re hoping to see “every village [with] its own factory.”

So if this became widely available, would you eat it? My answer: Hell yes. I’d at least try it. I’d certainly be curious to see if they can make it as good as regular meat. I have my doubts — the kind of food an animal eats has a dramatic effect on the taste of the meat. But I’d be more than happy to throw a lab-grown brisket in my smoker and see how it turns out.

And you know what chefs will do with it. Instead of mentioning the farm it came from on the menus, they’ll talk about which factory it came from.

Comments

  1. D Carter says

    I doubt that a populace that already devours creations like krab, Spam, Sunny Delight, and American cheese–and yogurt for that matter–will think twice about lab-grown meat. The marketers will stumble on suitably distracting messaging, and the people will fall in line.

    At least fewer fights about meat inspectors.

  2. abb3w says

    Possibly a plus for those with ethical objections to eating animals; on the down side, I’m not sure that it would be any more environmentally sustainable.

  3. matty1 says

    @1 I’m not sure what yoghurt is doing in that list. All the others are mass produced processed imitations of other (in my opinion more palatable) foods – crab, ham, orange juice and cheese respectively but yoghurt is a whole food category with lots of variation. It would make as much sense to put meat on that list.

  4. raven says

    Frederik Polh and CM Kornbluth had a better idea.

    Vats, probably. Chicken Little, a huge mass of cultured chicken breast, was kept alive by algae skimmed by nearly-slave labor from multistory towers of ponds surrounded by mirrors to focus the sunlight onto the ponds.

    Scum-skimming wasn’t hard to learn. You got up at dawn. You gulped a breakfast sliced not long ago from Chicken Little and washed it down with Coffiest. You put on your coveralls and took the cargo net up to your tier. In blazing noon from sunrise to sunset you walked your acres of shallow tanks crusted with algae. If you walked slowly, every thirty seconds or so you spotted a patch at maturity, bursting with yummy carbohydrates. You skimmed the patch with your skimmer and slung it down the well, where it would be baled, or processed into glucose to feed Chicken Little, who would be sliced and packed to feed people from Baffinland to Little America.

    From The Space Merchants, by Frederik Pohl (w/CM Kornbluth).
    Published by St. Martin’s Press in 1952

    Clifford Simak’s was even better.

    Project Fishhook

    “They’re taking away our very livelihood. They’re destroying a fine system of conventions and of ethics built very painfully through the centuries by men deeply dedicated to the public service…

    There is the matter for example, of this so-called butcher vegetable. You plant a row of seeds, then later you go out and dig up the plants as you would potatoes, but rather than potatoes you have hunks of protein.”

    “And so,” said Blaine, “for the first time in their lives, millions of people are eating meat they couldn’t buy before, that your fine, brave system of conventions and of ethics didn’t allow them to earn enough to buy.”

    I can see where steak plants could work.

  5. dhall says

    I have strong doubts as to whether or not a new, massive industry is going to be environmentally sustainable. It doesn’t matter if the meat is part of an animal or in a vat, the cells require water and nutrients to remain alive, grow and reproduce. If the nutrients aren’t added, the result won’t be worth much to the consumers either. In fact, for this industry to actually replace the need for most livestock, especially cattle, it will require a whole new, massive infrastructure, and it will suck up plenty of energy and other resources. There will be plenty of pollution concerns, quality control issues, safety concerns, and more. We will be trading one huge set of problems for another huge set, not least of which will be even more corporate control over the food supply, with all that entails. Along with that, we probably won’t solve the problems with livestock raising anyway, as there will be plenty of people who will reject factory meat, for both rational and irrational reasons. I suspect that the same people who reject GMO foods now are an indication of that. And sure, you have a lot of people who will eat fake crab meat, but it’s still fish. It has artificial flavoring, but in itself, it’s not artificial. Spam might not be the best part of the pig, but it’s not artificial either. Factory meat will, however, be entirely artificial, and that’s another story.

  6. chisaihana5219 says

    I would rather be a vegetarian than eat lab-grown meat. Can you imagine the chemical ingredients that would be added to make it palitable?And I agree with Dhall, it is just trading one problem for another. It has Soylent Green written all over it. Fortunately I am probably much older than most of your readers and thus will not be around long enough for labmeat to appear in my local grocery.

  7. ksnider says

    @dhall:

    Certainly, I’d agree with you that lab-grown meat will have its own set of problems, many of them unique, including resource, infrastructure, and pollution issues. However, it is projected to be better for the environment than traditionally-grown meat: according to BBC news, compared to conventionally-grown beef it will use 55% of the energy, give only 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, and use only 1% of the land (http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-23576143). When you add in the ethical issue of being able to (potentially) get cheap meat without having to support massive corporate factory farms, I think that’s well worth further research and development to see if we can get the technology to comparable prices with fewer impacts.

    As a general thought: sure, it’s more artificial than many of our processed foods. However, make it cheap enough, add a little marketing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some children begin to prefer it to real meat. E.g.: I love Kraft Mac N Cheese and can’t replace it with “real” mac n cheese. Processed tastes have their own appeal. Safety will be a big issue, but with good GMP I think it will be likely easier to make safe lab-grown meat than safe farm-grown meat. Isolation will be much easier – you won’t have lab stem cells walking around in the open air or escaping fences to go see the cows on the other side.

  8. says

    Marcus beat me to it @7 but, yeah. NOBODY will eat Soylent Green if they have an option but if it’s used to feed LABMEAT, what the heck, where’s the catsup*?

    SMcDonalds prolly already has the markting in place for the McMutant.

    * Or, as we like to call it Soylent Miaowwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

  9. says

    @8:

    It’s not a complete novelty. “Pink slime” meat was in a LOT of fast food before the expose a few years back (and I’m sure it’s still being used). If you ever read Sinclair Lewis or Upton Sinclair’s stories about the meatpacking business you will be dismayed to know that certain Meatecutives thought the part about using offal and sweepings to make sausage was feature, not bug.

  10. dingojack says

    Marcus (#7) – “Better they should die to relieve the surplus population”.
    8/ Dingo

  11. marcus says

    me @ 7 Lab Meat ™ is made out of people!*

    *So you know it’s a 100 per cent bio-compatible!

    (This s not an express or implied warranty. Your mileage may vary)

  12. steve84 says

    Not really different from some kind of meat products you can already buy. Mixed together from different sources, often with parts you’d normally never eat.

  13. steve oberski says

    As long as they put lot’s of sugar in it most people will have no problem with it.

    And it will have the full backing of the fructose sugar producing corn lobby.

    Arthur C. Clarke beat everyone to the punch in his 1964 short story “The Food of the Gods”.

  14. octopod says

    Hey, man, lips and assholes are made of meat too! That’s what sausage is for.

    I would definitely be first in line to try vat meat. Maybe they should be trying for an emulsified sausage first — it’d have to be easier.

  15. matty1 says

    Umm this is apparently real. Someone made a ‘food substitute’ and thought soylent was a good name for it.

  16. M can help you with that. says

    I kinda like the Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand approach — if you can grow meat from a tissue sample without killing (or even really injuring) the donor, why not vat-grown human meat? You could eat a chunk cloned from your favorite celebrity…

  17. krisrhodes says

    We already have localizable factories that are incredibly efficient at taking raw plant material, processing it, growing, reproducing, and providing a large number of useful products.

    It’s called a cow.

  18. says

    Just the jingle for Wall Street*

    My lunch meat has a first name; it’s, d-e-m-o-c

    My lunch meat has a second name; it’s o-m-m-I-e

    Oh! I love the stuff, it’s such a treat.

    And it keeps dead bodies off the street.

    Cause Monsanto has a way with L-A-B-M-E-A-T

    *With apologies to Oscar Mayer–they were waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of the curve on this stuff.

  19. newenlightenment says

    I wouldn’t have any ethical objection to eating lab meat, but as I’ve been vegetarian all my life I’d probably avoid it out of force-of-habit!

    With regards to lab-grown foods, I’ve often wondered, since oil is made from hydrocarbons, its only one molecule (oxygen) away from being carbohydrate, and only two molecules (oxygen and nitrogen) from being protein. Would it not therefore be possible to genetically engineer bacteria that can synthesize edible proteins and carbohydrates from oil and air? Considering it currently takes about 100 calories of oil to make 1 calorie of food; and agricultural land displaces ecosystems and carbon sinks, this would be a great ecological step forward. Of course, we’d be unlikely to be able to do without crops altogether – since synthesized proteins and carbohydrates would be pretty unpalatable on their own some kind of vegetable product would need to be added to them, and there are of course other dietary requirements aside from protein and starch – but if we could halve the total amount of land used for agriculture and feed the world far more cheaply, this would be a huge development.

  20. robertfaber says

    I’d eat it if they got it right, but the biggest problem in terms of getting others to eat it is texture. Natural beef gets its texture from how hard the cow works the particular muscles in its body, which we divide up into cuts. Chuck and round get a lot of exercise, as that’s the shoulders and butt, which is why that meat is usually ground and the steaks from those cuts don’t go for a premium. The ribeye and loin are up on the back which don’t work as hard, and are much more tender. The shank is from the legs and they’re the toughest cut of meat, unless you can make a good ossobuco. The lab meat, on the other hand, will not have “worked” at all, so it may be excellent like a filet mignon, or it might be too tender and fall apart. Then there’s fat content. You need marbling for a good steak, so they’d have to synthesize the fat in addition to the muscle, unless we’re just talking stew meat here.

  21. Nick Gotts says

    We already have localizable factories that are incredibly efficient at taking raw plant material, processing it, growing, reproducing, and providing a large number of useful products.

    It’s called a cow.

    Well, no. Cows are incredibly inefficient at doing that. It takes between 5 and 20 kg of dry feed to increase the mass of a cow by 1kg – and of course much of that added mass is inedible. Being ruminants, cows also produce large quantities of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas (and collecting it to burn is not practicable, apart from the small amounts in manure). Livestock are estimated to be responsible for 18% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and cattle are the biggest emitters. You can read plenty about the dire environmental effects of the meat industry here. I haven’t looked at the calculations for lab-grown meat, but it would be difficult for it to be as harmful as the current meat industry.

    I’ll note that there may be some land that is best used for grazing meat animals (or dairy cows), and farmers in poor countries may need cattle for labour and manure, but there’s no doubt that sustainable meat and dairy production would be a tiny fraction of what agribusiness now churns out.

  22. phere says

    Absolutely. 100 years from now (if we survive) factory farms and meat consumption will be looked on as barbaric as Roman arena events. If we have the option of a tasty burger made from vat meat or factory farm cow meat, it would be downright immoral to choose the factory farm meat. I am one of those hypocrites that is very concerned with the welfare and treatment of our livestock (and the environmental threat it poses)but refuses to stop eating meat. I love meat. I love ribeyes and bacon and hamburger and fried chicken. If we get this right, this could be a whole new chapter of human history (I also feel this way about 3d printing…we haven’t even scratched the surface of potential innovation). Hey…maybe we can 3d print meat…..

  23. phere says

    I am also reminded of this bit from Douglas Adam’s ‘Restaurant at the End of the Universe’:

    ‘You mean this animal actually wants us to eat it?’ whispered
    Trillian to Ford.

    ‘Me?’ said Ford, with a glazed look in his eyes, ‘I don’t mean
    anything.’

    ‘That’s absolutely horrible,’ exclaimed Arthur, ‘the most revolting
    thing I’ve ever heard.’

    ‘What’s the problem Earthman?’ said Zaphod, now transfering his
    attention to the animal’s enormous rump.

    ‘I just don’t want to eat an animal that’s standing there
    inviting me to,’ said Arthur, ‘It’s heartless.’

    ‘Better than eating an animal that doesn’t want to be
    eaten,’ said Zaphod.

    ‘That’s not the point,’ Arthur protested. Then he thought about it
    for a moment. ‘Alright,’ he said, ‘maybe it is the point. I don’t
    care, I’m not going to think about it now. I’ll just … er … I
    think I’ll just have a green salad,’ he muttered.

    ‘May I urge you to consider my liver?’ asked the animal,
    ‘it must be very rich and tender by now, I’ve been force-feeding
    myself for months.’

    ‘A green salad,’ said Arthur emphatically.

    ‘A green salad?’ said the animal, rolling his eyes disapprovingly
    at Arthur.

    ‘Are you going to tell me,’ said Arthur, ‘that I shouldn’t have
    green salad?’

    ‘Well,’ said the animal, ‘I know many vegetables that are
    very clear on that point. Which is why it was eventually
    decided to cut through the whole tangled problem and breed
    an animal that actually wanted to be eaten and was capable of
    saying so clearly and distinctly. And here I am.’

  24. Rick Pikul says

    One thing to consider about lab meat is that the early generations of production is going to probably go for processed or ground products. Most of the texture and marbling issues go away when you do this, (you need fat? grow some of that as well).

    Then again, I can envision looking in an inspection port of a SteakVat and seeing the meat twitching as it receives its electrostim exercise.

    As for taste: The early generation stuff is going to probably suck, (or at least be different), but I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends up better than ‘natural’ meat. (You think the best meat comes from cattle fed this particular mix of feeds and raised within 1km of the sea? We can do that!)

    @matty1: Yes that was a lousy choice for a name. If they’re going to call it ‘soylent’ it should have soy and lentils as the two main ingredients.

  25. phere says

    Sorry..one more… #1 D Carter …

    I disagree. Look at the suspicion with GMO crops. Vast conspiracies abound. Not to mention, the cattle industry in the US alone has huge political clout. It will not go away quietly. They will amass a media campaign of fear and misinformation. Sadly, even if there were no differences in taste or texture between vat meat or farm cow meat people will insist on farm cow because they won’t trust sci-fi tri-tip. Even though that farm cow suffered horribly mentally and physically from the time it was born until it was slaughtered, even though the farm cow was pumped full of unnatural feed, chemicals and antibiotics, even though the waste produced by that farm cow threatens the world’s environment. No, good ol’ boys will want their meat “natural”, not “grown under a microscope by those evil, Godless scientists”.

  26. says

    Labmeat is a very cost intensive solution. Let’s just eat bugs. They’re nutritious, high protein and there are billlions of pounds of them that are available without even worrying about cultivating them.

  27. dhall says

    You’re right, democommie. This is not a solution, it’s a bunch more problems, many of which cannot be anticipated, but many of which can be. Blaming cows for global warming without blaming the humans that insist on raising so many of them is missing the point, and so is the issue of chopping down forests to make more pastures. If you really, seriously want to figure out how to feed the human population sustainably, the first thing you might want to consider is convincing humans to stop reproducing as if there were no consequences. If you don’t address the exponentially increasing human population, if you keep pretending that we alone are exempt from habitat limitations, then it won’t really matter whether we have too many cows on the planet or not.
    #27, sure, 18% is 18%. But I seriously doubt if the construction of maybe thousands or more meat-growing plants, and their subsequent operations, with their potential energy needs, is going to be a whole lot better. Those plants are going to require energy, and plenty of it, around the clock. The product being grown will need constant bathing in a nutrient rich broth, and it’s going to need temperature control, and it will have to be sealed off from the outside to prevent contaminants. These things are not going to be cheap to run, and then there will be issues of wastewater and the pollutants generated by the process itself and the energy usage.

    We humans have a wonderful habit of thinking there are relatively simple, cheap solutions for big problems, and we forever delude ourselves like that. Keep in mind that when the automobile was invented, it was seen as a relatively non-polluting means of replacing horses. After all, horses left messes on the streets, there were issues with manure in the big cities, as well as the disposal of their carcasses. It wasn’t until cars, trucks and buses really, seriously replaced the horses that the problems with them began to be apparent. Replacing coal with oil was much the same story. Overpopulation is the root cause, and until that’s addressed, growing meat in a factory is just another band-aid.

  28. says

    OT @Matty1
    Umm this is apparently real. Someone made a ‘food substitute’ and thought soylent was a good name for it.

    That guys isn’t just “someone” in the Silicon Valley/ Techie industry. And that’s why it got it’s name – he was going to use crowd-funding to try and develop a meal-replacement that works (is that even feasible?). The name was 100% how he got the funds to ship the stuff (and he got way more than he was marginally expecting).

    It’s an interesting study on how crowd-funding can be done using the correct words. In all actuality, the guy pretty much made Ensure from what I can tel

    If anyone is interested in the stuff (not in taking it, but the story), pop over to arstechnica and sear “Soylent’

  29. D Carter says

    #3: yogurt is on the list simply because most people would spit it out if they thought hard about what’s in it while they’re eating it.

    Not me, though–I consume much yogurt every day.

  30. Trebuchet says

    Lab-meat can’t be any worse than the mechanically tenderized meat I’ve run into being sold as “steak” a couple of times.

  31. says

    Speaking as someone who has performed a great deal of tissue culture, the idea that you’re going to make steaks and hamburgers this way in a cost-effective manner is utterly insane. I am amazed that anyone is taking this shit seriously.

    The graphic accompanying the article shows, as a very first step, the cells being grown monolayer in a treated tissue culture flask. The cost of that flask alone is greater than a hamburger. Then there’s the cost of the media, the laminar flow hood, the humidified incubator, etc. And that’s all just for one preliminary step before you’ve scaled it up.

    By the way, does anyone realize that tissue culture media uses fetal bovine serum at (typically) 10% concentration? I suspect you would kill fewer cows by eating them directly.

  32. says

    A pair of scientists have apparently figured out how to grow meat in a lab using stem cells in localized factories.

    They haven’t figured out shit. Here is the actual article in question. It’s a two page “news and views” type article; these are teasers stuffed in the front part of a journal before you get around to the actual manuscripts. There is no original research in it at all.

    I’m afraid this is nothing more than lazy media hype.

  33. neonsequitur says

    They have GOT to come up with a better name than “lab meat” for this stuff. It sounds like it came from a Retriever. I don’t want that.

  34. says

    You know, if everyone dismissed a new invention or process as too expensive when it first came out, then we wouldn’t have half the things we take for granted today. Nobody is claiming that lab-grown meat is a near-term solution, and most people understand that there are some serious problems to overcome, not least the ability to scale up production to industrial levels, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find lab-grown lab was cheap and plentiful–and tasty–in another 50 to 100 years time (not that I will be around to see it, but still.)

    As for taste and texture — how much of the meat consumed today retains its original taste and texture by the time it lands on someone’s plate? Not a lot, I’d wager. Once it was cheap enough to make, lab meat could probably replace natural meats in many applications in the marketplace without anyone being able to tell the difference.

    Regarding the anti-GMO conspiracy theory types, well, yes, there will be those, but propaganda works both ways, and the lab meat industry will have no shortage of footage and information about the horrors of natural meat production and the hormones, chemicals, suffering, and drugs involved.

    Obviously the meat production companies will lobby hard against lab grown meat, but once lab-grown meat becomes commercially viable, the advantages of lab-grown meat will be hard to for many of the food production corporations to resist. Who wouldn’t want a reliable, disease free meat source that can be produced close to their other production facilities?

    It’s all speculation at this point, of course, but the future is a very long time, and there are plenty of good incentives to find solutions to the myriad problems still to be solved. After all, could young people in the 1950s watching scientists struggling mightily for years to get a working integrated circuit with a single transistor on it really have believed that it would be possible that chips with five billion transistors would be mass produced and being used for something as mundane as playing games with within their own lifetime? I doubt it.

  35. eternalstudent says

    I’m not sure why anyone thinks it’s going to be cheaper. Cheaper to produce, sure, once they get the process figured out. But as soon as that happens some asshole is going to patent it, and that will be that for the next 20 years. At which point they’ll patent some subtle variant and keep a lock for another 20 years. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    See the pharma industry.

  36. says

    I can see it now…

    The year is 2114; several men of moderate means are sitting around a table regaling one another with stories of their youth.

    “We wuz poor, we wuz!” says the first gent. “Why, we wuz so poor, that we had nought to eat but Labmeat!”.

    “Oh,” says the second gentleman, “You lot ‘ad it posh. Why, when I was a lad, we ‘ad Labtofu. Ghastly stuff, I tell you!”….

  37. says

    You know, if everyone dismissed a new invention or process as too expensive when it first came out, then we wouldn’t have half the things we take for granted today.

    That argument cuts both ways. If we spent all our efforts pursuing pie-in-the-sky ideas that had little chance of working, we’d waste tons of resources and neglect far more viable technologies. That said, if venture capital wants to fund research into lab meat, they should go for it. I’d rather Sergey Brin spend his money on that than on another yacht.

    I’m pretty sure lab meat is never going to work, not just because it’s conceptually flawed, but because there are much better ways to get something meat-like that didn’t come from an animal. Like for instance, start with some vegetable matter or fungi, work with it to give it the proper texture and flavor, and sell it as a meat substitute. Not only is it going to be much better at mimicking meat than slime from a tissue culture flask, it’s already on the market and is inexpensive.

    The great irony here is that for all the worries about lab meat being stigmatized, the whole issue would be moot if the meat substitutes we already have weren’t themselves stigmatized. If you can get people to eat meat-like cell cultures that are heavily processed and artificially flavored, you can surely get them to eat meat-like plants and mushrooms. It’s hard to believe that the second problem is more serious than the first.

  38. dingojack says

    Phewe – ” Even though that farm cow suffered horribly mentally and physically from the time it was born until it was slaughtered…”
    Citations required.

    Dhall – “But I seriously doubt if the construction of maybe thousands or more meat-growing plants, and their subsequent operations, with their potential energy needs, is going to be a whole lot better. Those plants are going to require energy, and plenty of it, around the clock. The product being grown will need constant bathing in a nutrient rich broth…”
    Really? Any citations for those notions?.

    Apart from the enormous religious/cultural significance of cows (and the wealth they represent), you’re all, also, forgetting one product that cows produce and Labmeat can’t – shit. An excellent product for fertilising fields, building, and burning as a fuel.

    Personally I’d say forget cows, go with the much more useful pig (there’s almost no waste as much more than 90% of the animal can be used). What can’t be used, I suppose, could form the ‘nutrient rich broth’ required (supposedly) to grow ‘meat bushes’.

    Dingo
    ——–
    Bugs (by which I suppose you mean insects generally, not just those adapted to sucking liquids) are one way to go, but there are far more fungi, algae and bacterium for each insect. (And what about Spiders, Scorpions, Millipedes, Horseshoe Crabs, Tardigrades and etc.) :)

  39. lpetrich says

    There’s a reason that fetal bovine serum is being used by these lab-meat developers. Its nutritional completeness. It has the full complement of amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids, etc., that animal cells need. Duplicating that nutritional completeness will be difficult without using the flesh of another organism, and that’s what fetal bovine serum essentially is. So artificial meat is not a very good solution to the food-chain problem.

    There’s an alternative sort of vat food: fungi. There’s a commercial vat food called Quorn that’s made from Fusarium soil-fungus mycelium, the mass of strands that is the fungus’s “body”. All that this fungus needs to eat are glucose and various minerals. One can get the glucose from digesting cellulose, a technology that is approaching commercial viability. So I think that there’s a much better future for vat-grown fungus than vat-grown animal flesh.

  40. says

    It has the full complement of amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids, etc., that animal cells need.

    Your standard media already has all that stuff before adding the cow serum, or at least it can be added at low cost. The reason to use serum is that it provides growth factors that get cells to multiply in an artificial environment. No one is entirely sure which factors or how many, but most cell lines won’t grow without serum or without very expensive substitutes.

    Therein lies the problem with growing animal cells in vitro. Animal cells have evolved to grow within the context of a whole organism, surrounded by numerous other cell types and extracellular matrix from which they accept growth factors and engage in cross-talk with other cells, telling them when to grow and when to stop growing, and what to develop into. “Meat” is not a mere collection of cells, it’s a complex tissue consisting of numerous cell types and layers, arranged in such a way as to get nutrients and oxygen inside to them, to get waste products out, to defend against pathogens, and to perform the function that they evolved to perform (typically, as muscles).

    You can try to mimic this de novo from cells grown in culture, but no matter what you’re just faking it. In fact, this is going about things in the wrong direction. It would make far more sense to start with an evolved organism that already produces yummy meat and has a built-in immune system, a liver, a growth program, and everything else you need. Then you strip away the parts you don’t want, like the brain and a bunch of other stuff, until you get down to a simplified meat factory that does nothing but consume grass or whatever and convert it into muscle. I doubt most people would be thrilled with this idea, but that just underscores the futility of making meat without an animal.

  41. birgerjohansson says

    democommie , I was thinking GMO insects.
    They will be altered to grow meat-tasting appendages that are easily separated from the rest of the insect during processing. The rest of the insect go to processing in a vat with organisms that can degrade chitin, and turn the lot into value-added chemicals.

    It is just another step on the road of biorefineries.

  42. says

    ““Meat” is not a mere collection of cells, it’s a complex tissue consisting of numerous cell types and layers, arranged in such a way as to get nutrients and oxygen inside to them, to get waste products out, to defend against pathogens, and to perform the function that they evolved to perform (typically, as muscles).”

    Checkmate, all you people who been callin’ me a “Meathead”!

    @46:

    Citations that lend credence to the notion that beef cattle (and other animals bred for meat–including dogs and rabbits) suffer, many from the moment they are born, are as necessary as my pocket comb. But, since you ask.

    http://www.columbia.org/pdf_files/husbandry.pdf

    I got over 8M hits when I googled “Inhumane treatment of meat animals”. My uninformed guess is that there are hundreds to thousands of nasty photos and documented accounts by inspectors of factory farms and slaughter facilities. I grew up in Omaha, at one time the home of the largest slaughter operations in the U.S. Google “Union Stockyards, Omaha, NE*–not a pretty picture in my head.

    “democommie , I was thinking GMO insects.”

    Don’t need ‘em. Plenty of crunchy, chewy bugs out there already; I’m told that they are quite tasty. I would have eaten them long ago except I haven’t the requisite knowledge and nobody in my neck of the woods does either. I do know an entomologist from Cornell who might have an idea about that I will have to see if I can find out anything from him. A fair portion of non-mammalian and non-marine animal protein in some countries comes from bushes, trees and the lawn–so to speak.

    The idea of “growing meat” is something that abounds in Sci-fi. One of my favorites was Cordwainer Smith’s novel about the planet Norstrilia with it’s gigantic, immobile sheep and the “stroon” that they produced.

    * After you’re through puking you can go to Upstream Brewing Company for some decent local microbrews or over to M’s Pub, at the corner of 11th and Howard (a block or so stagger) for some good food.

  43. dhall says

    Dingojack – you don’t need citations for “notions.” But if you want to know where I get my ideas about what cells require to survive, thrive and multiply, start with area man’s comments, read a biology textbook, and then think about the cells in your own body. Constant bath of nutrients–and oxygen–in a temperature controlled setting and protected from contaminants as much as biology allows. That takes a fair amount of energy per organism. Then think about trying to duplicate that on an industrial scale artificially. As many others here have stated, it’s not feasible, and it may not be for a very long time, or it may never be, and for a wide variety of reasons.

  44. dingojack says

    Demo – “Inhumane treatment of meat animals”. 173 results.

    “UFO” 42.2M results
    “area 51 conspiracy proof” 667M results
    “bigfoot” 6M results
    “Attantis” 29.6M results
    “Biblical Flood evidence” 35M results.

    Gee the latter must be extra, extra, extra true then, I guess. @@

    You can do better than that, I’ve seen you.
    Dingo
    ——–
    dhall – and yet the Basil in my back yard only needs the occasional water, go figure! (Also, the algae in the watering can seem to thrive with almost no care at all, not even constant temp.)

  45. says

    Try it without the quote marks.

    7,780,000 results

    Related searches
    Inhumane Treatment of Animals 600,000 results
    Inhumane Animal Treatment 602,000 results
    Inhumane Treatment of Farm Animals 151,000 results
    Inhumane Treatment of Pigs 3,390,000 results
    Inhumane Treatment of Chickens 2,530,000 results
    How Does Tyson Kill Chickens 14,500,000 results
    Inhumane Slaughterhouse Practices 107,000 results

    And you don’t have to come all the way to the U.S. to find shit like this:

    http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-alv-sheep.html

    I eat meat. I’m under no illusion as to the conditions which livestock are held, fattened and slaughtered under. I’m pretty sure that makes me a not nice person in some regard, I am not, however hypocritical about eating animals and saying it’s all good.

  46. says

    Not only is it going to be much better at mimicking meat than slime from a tissue culture flask…

    I will certainly grant that if there is a better alternative to cultured meat, then impetus towards developing it will be greatly blunted. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen that way, but it’s certainly work exploring.

    Then again, you talk about “slime” — i.e. what’s possible today and in the near future. Who’s to say that growing entire cuts of flesh will never be commercially viable? Never is a very long time.

    As for some of the other issues surrounding palatability and acceptable concerning meat substitutes, we have to be careful not to be to America-centric looking forward. As the wealthiest major nation in the world, we have the luxury of choice that many other people do not have, and may not have in the future, especially if the worst happens with global warming.

  47. says

    “Not only is it going to be much better at mimicking meat than slime from a tissue culture flask.”

    I’m not sure what product you’re talking about; tofu, seitan, texturized soy proteins?

    I’m just curious.

  48. caseloweraz says

    phere: Hey…maybe we can 3d print meat…..

    Why not? They’re already looking at 3D printing of organ tissue.

  49. says

    I’m not sure what product you’re talking about; tofu, seitan, texturized soy proteins?

    Just google “meat substitute” or “meat analogue” and you’ll get more examples than you care to read about.

    I don’t mean to imply that this stuff does a great job of mimicking meat. Just that it’s vastly superior to the $325,000 lab burger that lacked fat and required meat flavoring, so it’s a much better choice going forward because you’re already closer to the goal and expense isn’t an issue.

    One problem with most meat substitutes is that they’re marketed to vegetarians and vegans. This not only adds to their stigma (I’m not sure why some people hate vegetarians, but they do), it also limits what you can do with the stuff. Vegetarians are usually health conscious and vegans won’t eat anything that has touched an animal, so you could probably make the stuff taste a lot better if you added some butter fat and marketed it to omnivores. I think there’s huge potential here. Someone will eventually figure out how to do with meat substitutes what Elon Musk did for the electric car.

  50. eric says

    @48:

    I would eat it. I’ve been waiting for it for like 35 years.

    I’d try it too, but I share a number of other posters’ skepticism that there will ever be a commercially viable, tasty product which consumes less resources (including land) per kg of meat product than actual animals. This could be like fusion power – its always 35 years away….

    @25:

    since oil is made from hydrocarbons, its only one molecule (oxygen) away from being carbohydrate, and only two molecules (oxygen and nitrogen) from being protein. Would it not therefore be possible to genetically engineer bacteria that can synthesize edible proteins and carbohydrates from oil and air?

    We are already doing something like this. A lot of plant fertilizers come from petroleum products, so our farm crops can already be said to be (at least partiallly) living on oil, sunlight, and air. Moreover, there are some food dyes that are made directly from petroleum products, so we’re consuming very small amounts of oil-based foods without any ‘middleman’ organism being necessary.

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