Scientists to Offer Stem Cell Meat Alternative
Technology Articles 2/21/12
By: Chris Capps
For years we've been hearing from vegetarian advocacy groups that the meat industry is a costly and difficult to sustain development on a large scale. But at the same time, meat is often considered an essential that most people would not readily go without. And now scientists are promoting a new method of meat production that they say may cut the cost of agriculture significantly - by using stem cells.
Those who say there's no future for meat may be eating their words if Dutch Scientist Mark Post's development comes to fruition. Post has been developing a way for meat to be produced without the need for cows, which means agricultural space may quickly free up and pastures around the world could in theory be replaced by laboratories. The method relies on growing meat using bovine stem cells, and the first samples will finally be ready in fall. Will this turn out to be a triumph for agriculture, or will the odd origins of the meat leave a bad taste in the mouths of the public?
The process relies on stem cells being extracted from cows and then grown in biovats using the multiplying cells which are cultivated and grown in a lab. After the first generation, the meat will apparently be able to grow far more efficiently, cutting costs significantly. The end result, according to scientists, will be a guiltless burger.
For years scientists have tried to develop an alternative to costly meat production adding fuel to the ongoing debate over whether it's time for humanity to turn its back on the slaughter of cattle for consumption or not. And looking at the numbers, there is something to be said about the amount of space and food required if current meat production rates remain constant until 2070. Will meat increase steadily in price, or will an alternative be found? And will that alternative prove preferable?
But not all meat alternatives come in the form of a biovat in a laboratory. The old fashioned route of using vegetable based matter is still proving to be the closest thing to a burger for vegetarians at the moment. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is still considered one of the most promising alternatives, with many fast food restaurants already making the switch to less meat as prices increase.
Then again, there are a few questions on many minds while considering these stem cell burgers. Are they vegetable, animal, or somewhere in between?
It's quite possible the public perception of the meat produced through this process will be - at least at first - dubious. Even tofu, eaten for centuries in China was often lampooned in the late night circuit when it first became mainstream outside of traditional dishes. As it inched its way more and more into the void created by decreased meat availability, it is still seen as undesirable by some meat eating die-hards.
Whether or not this experiment is successful after the first artificially grown meat is produced later this year, it will certainly have quite a battle ahead of it before it completely replaces meat at the dinner table.