Are you ready to chow down on a nice juicy hamburger that came not from a cow in the field but from a laboratory test tube?
It may sound like science fiction, but that day may not be so far off. Real scientists in real laboratories across the world are currently working toward making test-tube meat something you can pick up at the local supermarket.
And they say it will look and taste the same as the steaks, chops and burgers coming from today’s meat packing plants.
Science writer Michael Specter visited labs in the Netherlands and North Carolina to check on the progress being made in this endeavor, and writes about it in The New Yorker. He says that much of the motivation for growing meat this way is animal welfare. Lab-grown meat would go a long way toward reducing the number of animals that would have to spend their lives being force-fed grain and antibiotics, or cooped up in cramped factory farms.
Another factor is the benefit to the environment. It’s estimated that global livestock is responsible for nearly 20 percent of all greenhouse gases. More people eating more meat means we’ll need more grain, more water, more grasslands.
How do you make lab-raised meat?
Scientists today are taking stem cells from pigs and putting them in nutrient broth-filled petri dishes, where they grow rapidly. The next step, according to Specter, is turning these cells into muscle tissue—and then there’s the matter of exercising that muscle tissue so that it doesn’t atrophy. Currently scientists use electrical impulses to stimulate the cells in the lab, but they’re still working on developing a way to do so on a commercial scale. That’s probably still a few years away.
Will it really taste as good as the burgers and rib-eye steaks we carnivores love today? The scientists insist that it will, according to Specter.
We shall see. I, for one, am ready to try it. Biting into a juicy medium rare steak that a cow didn’t die for…would certainly make it less of a guilty pleasure.
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