Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Show me the (faux) meat!

Well, friend, colleague, and all-around decent fellow VK at the DW&CS beat me to it -- which is only fair, since he was the one who sent me the link this afternoon. So here's the link to his post at said DW&CS.

The story: It seems that researchers are proposing "two new techniques of tissue engineering that may one day lead to affordable production of in vitro -- lab grown -- meat for human consumption". Yes, that's right. Faux meat. The Daily Show of meat. Well, not genetically faux meat, but certainly not meat as we know it.

The idea of culturing meat is to create an edible product that tastes like cuts of beef, poultry, pork, lamb or fish and has the nutrients and texture of meat.

Scientists know that a single muscle cell from a cow or chicken can be isolated and divided into thousands of new muscle cells. Experiments with fish tissue have created small amounts of in vitro meat in NASA experiments researching potential food products for long-term space travel, where storage is a problem...

[University of Maryland doctoral student Jason] Matheny's team developed ideas for two techniques that have potential for large scale meat production. One is to grow the cells in large flat sheets on thin membranes. The sheets of meat would be grown and stretched, then removed from the membranes and stacked on top of one another to increase thickness.

The other method would be to grow the muscle cells on small three-dimensional beads that stretch with small changes in temperature. The mature cells could then be harvested and turned into a processed meat, like nuggets or hamburgers.

Good eats? I don't know, we'll have to wait for Alton Brown's verdict. In the meantime, though, it's a fascinating story.

But I wonder about the ethics of eating faux meat. VK's a vegetarian. Would he eat it? I don't eat red meat or pork (and I'm trying to cut back on poultry). Would I? Maybe. Although membranes "stacked on top of one another" and harvested cells "turned into a processed meat" hardly seem appetizing.

Still, I'm definitely looking forward to my first spicy (faux) tuna maki.

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  • Initially, I'm revolted. Unnatural, weird, creepy. I might try it though out of both curiosity and humanitarian reasons. I realize that if we tried to explain modern farming/slaugtherhouse practices to a person living 10,000 years ago -- how we keep animals in small crates and slaughterhouses and all that... he'd probably think it barbaric and strange too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:42 PM  

  • Yes, I'm revolted, too. But there are those nagging ethical concerns. I hardly think that what we do now is civilized. On the contrary, much of it is astonishingly cruel. Did anyone read that book Fast Food Nation?

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 2:39 AM  

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