Plenty of us love a good burger or a juicy steak, but you’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware that farming meat is really rather bad for the environment, (18% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock) and generally not great for animal welfare either. One solution could be to cut meat out entirely and go veggie- but let’s not kid ourselves. BURGERS ARE DELICIOUS.
So how about test tube meat? Take a muscle stem cell (aka a myosatellite cell) from a cow or a pig, and in the correct conditions, that cell can differentiate into muscle cell and multiply. Even better, muscle stem cells tend to naturally organize into muscle fibres, and provided with some anchor points in the petri dish, will begin to form strips of muscle. And if the anchor points are made of little bits of velcro, then the muscle fibres actually exercise and bulk up as they pull against the velcro! At the moment the best that scientists can do is little strips a couple millimetres thick and 2-3cm long (sounds like ready-ground meat for burgers!) but they are working on a meshwork that could make something thick enough to be prepared like steak.
There are mixed feelings around lab meat. Some people think it’s genetically modified food (it’s not) and maybe just the idea of eating meat from a factory rather than a farm strikes a peculiar note. But Professor Mark Post (the man behind the meat) points out that until 20 or so years ago, all cheese came from farms- now most of what people buy comes from factories: “Why should meat be any different?”
Could lab meat save the planet? Will it ever be as satisfying and delicious as meat from a real animal? (turns out right now it doesn’t taste very nice!)
Should we just get over ourselves and our demands? Will we invest money into meat research (PETA thinks we should!) Or should we just quit our burger habit?
What about lab-growing rare animal meats, or even human meat? And, bottom line, would you eat it? How about ground up and fried with onions?