Mystery meat from the lab

By Alex Wiles, Features Staff Writer

Do you ever wonder where that meat in your chicken nuggets comes from?  The answer may soon be a test tube.

Mark Post, a researcher at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, told a crowd at the annual American Assn. for the Advancement of Science conference that his lab has been working on an efficient way to synthesize meat in the laboratory.  His lab takes cow stem cells and applies a process to them to change them into tissues that are similar to those found in cow meat.

The process is still in the early stages, but Post says that by fall, “we have committed ourselves to make a couple of thousand strips of small tissues, and then assemble them into a hamburger.”

Post told FoxNews.com, “We are just focusing on a proof of concept.  That yes, it can be done in a laboratory, just to show the world that it can be done.”

Post’s research was funded by a donation of 250,000 Euros (roughly $330,000) from an anonymous donor with a self-proclaimed, “care for the environment…and interest in life-changing technologies.”

This anonymous donor’s goal to help the environment through meat production may seem off course, but it is actually an area that greatly harms the environment.

Patrick Brown, a biochemist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, who was speaking at the same conference, said “Animal farming is by far the biggest ongoing environmental catastrophe,” and that there is already enough protein in the world’s supply of corn, wheat, rice and soybeans to feed the world.

Yet, only 4 percent of the world’s land surface is devoted to growing these crops, compared to 30 percent for grazing and raising the crops for livestock feed.

“More to the point, [meat production is] incredibly ready to topple,” he said, “it’s inefficient technology that hasn’t changed fundamentally for millennia.”

Brown is taking a different direction in producing meat substitutes, though.  He has chosen to start with plant products to create an identical meat-like substance that he says will win over the most fanatic meat eaters with its taste.

Brown said in a video of the conference produced by the CBC, that his meat replacement “cannot be distinguished from the animal-based product it replaces.”

Later in the CBC report, when people off the street were asked if they would eat the test tube meat, many seemed hesitant to say that they would.  In a poll on their site, the results seem split.  22 percent claim they would eat meat grown from cow stem cells, while 26 percent say they will continue to eat meat from animals.

Regardless of how the meat substitute is produced, it seems that in future, these alternate-meats will play a bigger role in our diets as the demand for meat rises, and the amount of farmable land tops out.

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