Wired News has incubated a truly meaty story
What if the next burger you ate was created in a warm, nutrient-enriched soup swirling within a bioreactor?
Edible, lab-grown ground chuck that smells and tastes just like the real thing might take a place next to Quorn at supermarkets in just a few years, thanks to some determined meat researchers. Scientists routinely grow small quantities of muscle cells in petri dishes for experiments, but now for the first time a concentrated effort is under way to mass-produce meat in this manner.
Henk Haagsman, a professor of meat sciences at Utrecht University, and his Dutch colleagues are working on growing artificial pork meat out of pig stem cells.
Isn't that an appetizing opening series of paragraphs? I just had to dig in and work through the rest of it. Here are a few questions on the subject that occured to me while digesting the rest of the article:
- Apparently the present research uses pig stem cells. But if they were chicken stem cells would petri-pork-style meat be kosher?
- How do you schecht (ritually slaughter in a kosher way) a petri dish?
- If the stem cells were from fish, would the meat be parve (neither milk nor meat and thus kosherly permissible in combination with either)?
- Is there really such a thing as a Professor of Meat Sciences, or did they just make that up?
A single cell could theoretically produce enough meat to feed the world's population for a year. But the challenge lies in figuring out how to grow it on a large scale. Jason Matheny, a University of Maryland doctoral student and a director of New Harvest, a nonprofit organization that funds research on in vitro meat, believes the easiest way to create edible tissue is to grow "meat sheets," which are layers of animal muscle and fat cells stretched out over large flat sheets made of either edible or removable material. The meat can then be ground up or stacked or rolled to get a thicker cut.
- Meat rollups anyone?
- Would vegetarians eat petri-meat, since no animal is killed?
- Would PETA and Pamela Anderson agree to petri-dish fur, if the petri-meat were tweaked to grow a shaggy coat?
- When video of the crowded meat labs inevitably leaks out, will we hear demands for free-range petri-meat -- little petri dishes scattered across open, organic fields, bathing in the all-natural sunshine?
The sheets would be less than 1 mm thick and take a few weeks to grow. But the real issue is the expense. If cultivated with nutrient solutions that are currently used for biomedical applications, the cost of producing one pound of in vitro meat runs anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.
- So the government will have to subsidize petri-meat for the poor? This could raise income taxes to about 112% of your take-home pay, but wouldn't it be worth it?
If petri-meat could be made kosher (assuming that matters to you) and affordable (assuming that matters to you), would you try it? How much ketchup would you need to choke down a Petri burger?