Friday, June 23, 2006

But Is It Kosher? 

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:

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.

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.
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?

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: