Lab-Grown Meat


I just can’t get my head around this news from the other side of the pond: Scientists ‘grow’ meat in laboratory.

On the one hand, I figure if the Dutch government is behind it, how wrong can it be? On the other hand, I think, perhaps in knee-jerk fashion, that genetically-modified anything is bad and weird. On still another hand (I do realize that’s three hands), I hope it’s the magic bullet for feeding the world’s exponentially-growing population and putting the ethical and environmental horrors of factory-farmed meat behind us. I seem to contain multitudes. As do muscle cells, apparently:

The scientists extracted cells from the muscle of a live pig and then put them in a broth of other animal products. The cells then multiplied and created muscle tissue. They believe that it can be turned into something like steak if they can find a way to artificially “exercise” the muscle.

The idea isn’t new. For example, the meat on Star Trek was created by devices called replicators (in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, such meat was called “vatgrown flesh”). Back in reality, in 1930, Winston Churchill said, “Fifty years hence, we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.” (I had no idea Winston Churchill thought about such things; looks like he too contained multitudes.) NASA’s been working on turkey cells for a decade, trying to provide astronauts in space with improved forms of long-term food (the first edible form of “in vitro meat” was produced in 2000: fish fillets from goldfish cells). Fast forward to 2008, when PETA offered a million dollars to the first company to bring lab-grown chicken meat to consumers by 2012.

Finally, in 2009, Time Magazine declared in vitro meat production one of the year’s 50 breakthrough ideas. Of course bloodletting was also considered a breakthrough idea in its day, as was, more recently and more to the point, DDT. Still, if scientists end up creating a Frankenstein that can end factory farming, I’d be willing to at least meet the guy, no judgments.