Jun 6 2011

Test Tube Meat


The other day I heard an amazing interview on Terry Gross’ ‘Fresh Air’.

She spoke with science writer Michael Specter who recently traveled to laboratories in the Netherlands and North Carolina to examine the progress scientists have made in developing in vitro meat. He writes about his trip, and the arguments in favor of lab-made steaks, in the May 23 issue of The New Yorker.

Laboratories are combining meat cells to grow meat in a petri dish. They are motivated to end the needless cruelty to billions of animals raised only to be killed for food. Specter says,  “There is something inherently creepy about [growing meat in labs], But there is something more inherently creepy about the way we deal with the animals that we eat. … They live a horrible life, and they often die quite cruelly. So the idea of being able to eliminate some of that is extremely exciting for a lot of people.”

They are also motivated by the negative environmental impact animal agriculture is having on global warming, deforestation and water pollution.

Currently the meat cells are only as big as a contact lens, but they are confident they can grow the cells much larger and rapidly. We are talking about ground meat here, not a steak, but scientist are optimistic that is a possibility in time.

Scientists use electrical impulses to shock the meat so it doesn’t atrophy. Makes sense that muscles need stimulation, but I cant help but wonder about those factory farm animals who don’t have enough room to turn around. There is no question that their muscles are atrophied. Perhaps petri dish ground meat will be more lean as a result.

Obviously this is controversial, but if it can save lives, and help the environment it deserves serious consideration. Think about the animals who could be saved if just the fast food chains decided to use this method for their burgers. It would be huge!

Here is a link to the show if you would like to listen to the interview in its entirety.


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