Photo: LucienTj (via Flickr)
What do wine, beer, and yogurt have in common? They are grown in facilities in large quantities, intended for human consumption. If scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina are successful, meat may be the next cultured item on that list.
Meat Without The Animal
According to Reuters, Dr. Vladimir Mironov, M.D., Ph.D. and the research team at South Carolina has taken myoblasts – embryonic cells that develop into muscle tissue – from turkey and bathed them in a nutrient bath of bovine serum on a scaffold made of chitosan (a common polymer found in nature) to grow animal skeletal muscle tissue.
The scientists are working on adding fat to the compound and other qualities so that the cultured meat has more versatility. The team says it will be able to engineer textures and taste so that they can produce the difference between steak, pork, and other types of meat.
By working from meat cultures, Mironov believes the team can grow meat without genetically modifying it.
Meat Production For A Shrinking Planet
As land available for raising animals becomes scarcer as the human population expands, there will be many advantages for meat grown from cultures.
Nicholas Genovese, a cancer cell biologist working for this project under a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals grant, says:
Thirty percent of the earth’s land surface area is associated with producing animal protein on farms. Animals require between 3 and 8 pounds of nutrient to make 1 pound of meat. It’s fairly inefficient. Animals consume food and produce waste. Cultured meat doesn’t have a digestive system.
Although research into cultured meat production is under way in the Netherlands, Mironov says that the United States has been tentative to fund his team’s research.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health won’t give the project research funding, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration stopped funding the program after a short time.
Mironov’s team thinks that this type of technology does not currently have the cultural acceptance that it will in the future. “There’s a yuck factor when people find out meat is grown in a lab. They don’t like to associate technology with food,” says Genovese. “But there are a lot of products that we eat today that are considered natural that are produced in a similar manner.”
- South Carolina scientist works to grow meat in a lab (Reuters)