A new technology is taking the meat industry by storm. No, it is not a new cut of steak, roast, cooking method or grill, but a new “meat” itself. The meat is grown in a petri dish in a lab and is called “cultured” or “synthetic meat.” That’s right, actual meat that is grown-in a laboratory without an animal.
This “tissue engineering” or “in-vitro” process removes tissue stem cells from an animal, then the cells are saturated in a dish with nutrients. Over a span of six weeks or more, the stem cells grow into muscle tissue. The cells have to be exercised in order to grow, and some labs use electrification or have the cells growing on scaffolding. According to Dutch researcher Mark Post, from the University of Maastricht, it takes 20,000 cultured muscle strips to make a five-ounce beef patty.
Although this technology has made advances in the past years, the history can be traced back to the 1970s. In 1971, Russell Ross was able to grow the first in vitro cultivation of smooth muscle fibers. Fast forward to 1995, the United States Food and Drug Administration approves the first use for in vitro meat commercial cultivation. However, the industry really took off when the first in vitro hamburger was developed and taste tested in 2013 by Post.
Several journals and articles say that this meat will be hitting grocery store shelves soon, as early as 2020. The first lab-grown meatball was sold for $18,000 per pound. Some scientists claim they have made the meat more affordable at $11 per pound.
Many people in favor of this meat are animal rights activists. These people are pushing for this technology because they believe this is a safe and humane alternative to conventional animal agriculture. I have heard several different catch phrases for this product, such as, “Meat Without Murder,” “Meat Without Livestock,” and “Test Tube Fast Food.” Many sources say that this lab-grown meat could help end animal agriculture suffering, save the environment, and even be healthier for you than conventional ground beef meat now.
As a fifth-generation farm kid, it is hard to accept that there is a technological process that could make your livelihood obsolete. The scientific side of this technology is absolutely amazing. People are out there creating meat to feed a hungry world. If animal activists or other people took the approach that this technology will help feed starving people around the world, I wouldn’t have such a negative opinion of it. However, the people funding research for this are approaching this as a technological alternative to animal meat.
Some people in favor of this technology say that lab-grown meat is vegan because no animals were tortured in the process. I saw a few comments on articles and videos that say, “I personally don’t agree with this! even though the animals don’t die, it is still tested on and therefore, tortured.” As an animal agriculture advocate it is challenging to have constructive debate with people who are so far out of touch with the truth about animal agriculture. The truth being that farmers do not torture, abuse or neglect their animals.
I also find irony in this new cultured meat. Several of the vegan, vegetarians and animal activists who are for this new meat are strictly against GMOs, which are just plants that have been modified in a lab and have a few gene changes, but they are perfectly okay with eating meat grown in a petri dish. To me, this seems about as unnatural as it gets. I will not be buying or trying this meat anytime soon. For now, I’ll stick to raising my own meat and being okay with having a nice, big, juicy steak that is medium rare.