Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2017, A Meat Odyssey

Test Tube Meats are the next big thing to appear between your buns. No more factory farming or animal abuse...just some glass beakers and tubes of stem cells growing into your burger or chicken patty. The latest issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN magazine explains current projects underway.
Morris A. Benjaminson, a biology professor at the Touro College School of Health Sciences and president of Zymotech Enterprises in Bay Shore, N.Y., is pursuing his idea of growing animal skeletal muscle tissue into a fillet or steak in small chambers. Morris and his team extracted stem cells from fish embryos and used them to grow muscle cells by stimulating them electronically, mechanically, hormonally and nutritionally. With adequate funding and some adjustments will soon yield what will be a tasty fillet mignon! The success story as of late is the tiny mass of tissue that looks, smells and cooks like a fish fillet. This technique could yield in a mass production of boneless chicken breasts for a fraction of the cost of a commercial farm, without possibilities of salmonella and other contamination found in supermarket poultry. Not to mention, NO CRUELTY! No animals harmed, as it is possible to take a muscle biopsy from a live farm animal and culture the isolated muscle cells. If stem cells are used, these would likely be from a farm animal embryo.
Dutch researchers at Utrecht University are using pig stem cells to produce vat-grown pork. Their goal is to feature a minced meat for use in burgers, tacos, sausages and pizza toppings within the next couple of years.
Jason Matheny, a doctoral student at University of Maryland runs the nonprofit group called NEW HARVEST. Their vision is that of "meat sheets" made up of layers of animal muscle and fat cells. They plan to use inexpensive nutrients like plant or fungal sources that could potentially bring the price of meat down to $1 per pound! Omega 3 fatty acids could be added in addition to other heart healthy ingredients. NEW HARVEST predicts certain products such as chicken nuggets or burgers will be available within several years but it will be at least a decade until the technology is developed to actually produce a steak or a lamb chop.
The NEW HARVEST website is SUPER interesting! Check it out for info on why this test tube idea is attractive and makes a heck of a lot of sense. Meat Farmers will have to dust off their science textbooks or rely strictly on growing veggies. I suppose they will still need animals for dairy needs. (even though we could easily live without it!) Here is a paragraph about the project at NEW HARVEST:
"One novel line of research is to produce meat in vitro, in a cell culture, rather than from an animal. The production of such "cultured meat" begins by taking a number of cells from a farm animal and proliferating them in a nutrient—rich medium. Cells are capable of multiplying so many times in culture that, in theory, a single cell could be used to produce enough meat to feed the global population for a year. After the cells are multiplied, they are attached to a sponge-like "scaffold" and soaked with nutrients. They may also be mechanically stretched to increase their size and protein content. The resulting cells can then be harvested, seasoned, cooked, and consumed as a boneless, processed meat, such as sausage, hamburger, or chicken nuggets."
We can support this cause or look at more sad photos about the reality of cruel practices like raising calves to be veal on your plate.

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