Saturday science subject: Manufactured meat
Some people oppose the consumption of meat because of the unfortunate fate of animals from which it is issued. But what if we could have meat without slaughtering animals? According to an article by Popular Mechanics, scientists are currently fine-tuning a process
that allows the "in vitro" generation of meat tissue from animal stem cells.
It takes just two weeks to turn pig stem cells, or myoblasts, into muscle fibers. "It's a scalable process," says Jason Matheny of New Harvest, a meat substitute research group. "It would take the same amount of time to make a kilogram [2.2lbs] or a ton of meat." One technical challenge: Muscle tissue that has never been flexed is a gooey mass, unlike the grained texture of meat from an animal that once lived. The solution is to stretch the tissue mechanically, growing cells on a scaffold that expands and contracts. This would allow factories to tone the flaccid flesh with a controlled workout.
Aside from allowing meat-processing companies to circumvent animal slaughter, lab-grown meat also presents a number of other advantages. Such meat would be free of hormones, antibiotics, and diseases, and it could be made healthier with added vitamins and fatty acids. In-vitro meat does currently costs around $45,000 per pound, but Popular Mechanics says meat-processing companies expect to start selling factory-grown pork at affordable prices in "under a decade."