But I don’t want to eat a cow!
Do you feel bad about your place at the top of the food chain? Does the thought of even eating an animal cracker make you sad? Take heart! Meat-eater-ologists have found a solution that gives us meat without killing an animal. Loosen up your belt and get ready for meat grown in a lab!
That’s right – quicker than you can say “yuck, you can’t make me eat it”, scientists can grow up to 80,000 quarter pounder patties from a single tissue sample from a cow. The meat looks like meat, feels like meat, and tastes like meat because, well, it is meat. Under a microscope, you can’t tell the difference between animal meat and cultured meat.
The benefits of cultured meat (aka clean meat)
Called cultured meat or clean meat, lab-grown meat can not only save the lives of animals, it lowers the environment costs of meat production because ranchers won’t have to raise an animal from birth. They can save the cost of land, water, and food used to raise the animal. Instead, all they have to do is sustain the generation and growth of cultured meat cells inside a laboratory setting.
How cultured meat is made in a lab
To make lab grown meat, scientists take cells from the tissue of an animal’s muscle. Next they extract stem cells from the tissue. Stem cells are the cells that help an animal regenerate tissue when it is injured. The stem cells are placed in a medium containing nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, sugars, minerals, proteins, and salts) and allowed to multiply to form tiny strands of muscle tissue called myotubes. This muscle tissue is placed in a vessel called a bioreactor where, just like an animal’s muscle tissue, it is stretched and exercised while it is cultivated and layered together to create meat. The entire process takes between 4-6 weeks, about the time it would take the cow to reach Mexico and sneak across the border.
Scientists first introduced lab-brown meat in 2013. They made a burger from lab-grown meat and gave it to journalists to eat (not because they hated journalist but rather, because they wanted them to write good things about it). The patty they gave to reporters cost more than $300,000 to produce. Now, almost a decade later, costs have fallen enough to make it feasible to make burgers, chicken, pork, turkey, duck, and even seafood in a lab.
The future of cultured meat
Eventually scientist hope to be able to make more than just animal meat. They are working on other lab-grown animal products including milk, gelatin, eggs, and even leather. They may even be able to combine different meats together in a hybrid meat product like for instance, a beef-chicken-panda burger. Ew.
We know. You didn’t fight your way to the top of the food chain just to be a vegetarian. Now you can take a little meat-time without feeling guilty.