Thursday, 6 September 2012

Lab Meat/In Vitro Meat...

I should not be up writing at 1am in the morning when I have work in less than 12 hours but I'm not very good at remembering ideas so I have to do something with them when they come knocking. So recently I watched a video by a well known YouTuber named Hank Green. Hank started off by uploading video blogs with his brother John Green in a project they called Brotherhood 2.0. Since then, they have uploaded thousands of videos on multiple channels with each video massing an average of 200,000 views. But alas I am not here to talk about them although I have great respect for them and would urge you to go take a look at their channel at

Get to the point Calum. Okay so recently while watching one of their Scishow videos, Hank mentions new scientific research into Lab Grown Meat, Cultured Meat or In Vitro Meat. Now I know at first thought that sounds absolutely revolting and against nature but hear me out. Let me give you the statistics. So far scientists in the Netherlands have managed to grow a piece of cow muscle that is 3cm long and 1cm wide. How did they do it? Well you do it the same way animals do it. You start off with stem cells in a pitri dish and you feed them to start off the growth process. The cells are then attached to a scaffold of collagen gel which allows them to form into muscle fibers and from there into muscle tissue. During this process the tissue is exercised to help it form by passing electric currents through the gel. The idea is that if you do this long enough you'll end up with enough meat to 'harvest'.

There are obviously plenty ethical arguments on this topic. Many being that it sounds disgusting and maybe it does but there cant be anything more disgusting that the way we currently produce meat. Also, if you think about the amount of land, energy, fuel and water we use to produce the meat we currently eat, the odds are astronomical. Researchers have predicted that cultured meat can be produced with 96% less greenhouse gas emissions, 99% less land use and 96% less water than conventional meat. Alas cultured meat is a long, long way from appearing on the shelves of your nearest supermarket, one reason being the cost. For example, at the moment to produce one whole hamburger from cultured meat would cost around $250,000USD. Thats one expensive burger!

The original research into this process was conducted by NASA and was intended to provide renewable food for long space voyages. So what do you think? Can it be a reasonable alternative? I think that if they manage to reduce the price and increase the speed in which they can produce it, there is definitely a use for it in the future. Until next time.

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