Scientists Bioengineer Pork Meat in a Laboratory


Source image by Kent Wang.

Backed by a sausage manufacturer and the Dutch government, scientists in the Netherlands have successfully grown artificial pork meat in the laboratory for the first time, reports the Times Online. Using cells extracted from the muscles of a live pig, which were then incubated in a nutrient-rich solution, the cells were able to multiply indefinitely. Science! As creepy as it sounds, in vitro meat is theoretically good for the environment (lab-grown animal tissue doesn’t emit greenhouse gases) and would eliminate animal suffering and deaths (even PETA is in support). The next step is figuring out how to exercise the "meat" to turn it into something with a steak-like consistency, and the researchers are generously estimating it'll be a real product in "five years' time."

—Raphael Brion

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  1. Doc

    "lab-grown animal tissue doesn’t emit greenhouse gases"

    I hate this kind of nonsense. The electricity used to run the laboratory, and to make most of the lab equipment, was very likely generated using fossil fuels - and therefore has caused lots of greenhouse gas emissions.

    Compare this to a range-raised animal, which gets its food from naturally growing plants. Any of the greenhouse gasses emitted would have come from plants, which in turn pulled the carbon from the atmosphere - making the process carbon neutral.

    So if you want meat to be environmentally friendly, raise it in as natural a setting as possible, feed it plants grown without petroleum-based fertilizers, sell it locally to minimize fuel consumption, and consume it fresh instead of freezing it.

    • bc

      I think what the author was trying to convey is that the tissue itself doesn't emit greenhouse gas. The living tissue in the factory farm does emit methane as well as tons of raw sewage and wastewater.

      While I like your natural, range-fed notions, the simple fact is that meat produced in a truly organic, free-range system makes up only a very slight percentage of the meat consumed in the world (and even slighter in the case of the US).

      Eating local is a good thing, but with the sheer demand for cheap food with the current population, it's not a real solution. How about local, lab-grown meat? While it's true that the resources needed and expended in the laboratory wouldn't be carbon neutral, it could be a reasonable solution for the current demand levels and would likely reduce the environmental impact of our current food-growing reality.

      Until the average American comes to terms with the fact that the most important environmental change they can individually enact is to change the way they eat, we're likely screwed. It's not likely that I'll be eating any meat (traditionally raised, free-range, lab tested and approved, or otherwise) any time soon. But my hope that these new innovations would have beneficial impacts on consumer health, the environment, and animal welfare leads me to support this movement.

      I've given up on changing America. Let's just not tell them that the $0.99 chicken McNuggets they're eating in 2015 are chock full of vitamins, low in calories, and didn't require the abuse of 9 billion chickens. Unfortunately, they'll probably cancel it all out by dunking them in barbecue sauce and supersizing their Cokes....

  2. Displacing all the cattle and pig farmers in the world won't emit greenhouse gases, either!

    Marketing this stuff so it puts them out of business won't emit greenhouse gases. Inventing new flavors of it and marketing them when people get bored won't emit greenhouse gases. Better dining through science. Yeehaa.

  3. Ellen


    Big agribiz is already eliminating the farmers. We aren't talking about small family operations, we're talking about huge rather frightening corporate operations.

    It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to have vat-grown meat take over the market from factory-farmed meat. The average pig farm now is a horror show, as is the average chicken farm. I'm not a vegetarian, PETA people give me the creeps, but the fact of the matter is, the way we get our meat now is horrid.

    I'm also not sure that this would be as wasteful of resources as current farming practices. It might actually reduce pollution. I don't know and neither do you.

    It would be better for the planet if everyone, everywhere stopped eating meat. That is not going to happen any time soon. But to those on their minimize-your-carbon-footprint high horse, it's not like every Google search you do is carbon free. You're burning up energy every minute you spend on the internet.

    No matter how efficient we are in producing food, no matter how minimal we make our carbon footprints, it doesn't matter squat because THERE ARE TOO MANY OF US! Nobody talks about that. I've gotten chewed out by self-righteous vegetarians, trailing their litters of kids. You really want to make a difference? Don't breed. Period. Simply maintaining current levels of population will not cut it either. We need to reduce our numbers. And that will start happening about the same time people stop eating meat, when we all start starving to death. And that time will come.

    In the meantime, if this vat meat project works, people will eat it. There will be some initial resistance. I think Margaret Atwood summed up the situation perfectly in her novel "Oryx and Crake" in which a character is initially horrified by genetically modified chicken, but a chapter latter he is mindlessly munching on batter-fried "Chicken Nubbins" from a fast food chain.

    Does it really matter, aestheically, if McDonalds and its ilk use this stuff in their already less-than-natural menu offerings? As for such small farmers who are hanging on, they will do as well as they are doing now and maybe better, offering on-the-hoof or on-the-trotter grown meat as a luxury item.

  4. me

    Mass population requires mass productions, stop being naive about stuff like this. It will be the same with your veggies & pills if everyone is a vegan, but we all love to cut down forests for farmland don't we? And normally animals don't poop right?

    I love on one side all you PETA hugging vegan monsters are all about "Yay organic! Yay nature!" then on the other side it's "Yay, meat grown in labs!" What the hell kind of double standard is that!? Do you only matter and only get to eat well if you're a goddamn animal???

    OMNIVORES people, you can't change what we are. I'm so sick of this self-righteous blahblah.

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