In meatroBy Marilee Griffin • Published: September 12th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
Imagine your fork, hovering above a plate of crispy chicken cutlets. Would you hesitate to dig in if you knew the meat you were about to eat was grown in a lab instead of an animal?
In vitro, or cultured meat, is not a science fiction daydream — at least, not anymore. Around the world, scientists are working to grow meat in Petri dishes the same way that they’re trying to grow tissues and organs for medical use.
The end goal would be cuts of beef, pork and chicken that look like — and taste like — the real thing. Except instead of coming from a factory farm animal, it’s grown from a biopsy of its muscle cells.
These cells are currently grown in Petri dishes of nutrients, although scientists will need to build scaffold platforms to provide an anchor for muscle tissue formation. The next step is stimulating these muscle fibers, which must be exercised to become meat — otherwise, they will die. At this time, the best method that scientists have to stimulate the fibers is electrical impulses. The result is tiny pieces of muscle tissue, but nothing yet resembling, say, a chicken breast.
The big question is, when researchers are able to perfect Petri-grown poultry, will people eat it? The answer is: They may not have a choice. Aside from improving animal welfare in the food industry, in vitro meat would have a positive impact on the globe; livestock account for approximately 20 percent of greenhouse gasses and occupy more than one-fourth of the land on the earth. In 40 years, there will be 9 billion people on the planet, which the current agricultural industry isn’t able to support.
Cultured meat might even be safer to eat than conventional meat, since it would be free of animal diseases, hormones and antibiotics. And the flavor? Researchers insist it would be the same as the real deal – because, technically, it is the real deal. Mmm — tastes like chicken.