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Biotech Earth Science

Scientists Create Artificial Meat 820

Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that scientists have created the first artificial meat by extracting cells from the muscle of a live pig and putting them in a broth of other animal products where the cells then multiplied to create muscle tissue. Described as soggy pork, researchers believe that it can be turned into something like steak if they can find a way to 'exercise' the muscle and while no one has yet tasted the artificial meat, researchers believe the breakthrough could lead to sausages and other processed products being made from laboratory meat in as little as five years' time. '"What we have at the moment is rather like wasted muscle tissue. We need to find ways of improving it by training it and stretching it, but we will get there," says Mark Post, professor of physiology at Eindhoven University. "You could take the meat from one animal and create the volume of meat previously provided by a million animals." Animal rights group Peta has welcomed the laboratory-grown meat, announcing that "as far as we're concerned, if meat is no longer a piece of a dead animal there's no ethical objection while the Vegetarian Society remained skeptical. "The big question is how could you guarantee you were eating artificial flesh rather than flesh from an animal that had been slaughtered. It would be very difficult to label and identify in a way that people would trust.""
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Scientists Create Artificial Meat

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  • Soggy Meat? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:50PM (#30275312)

    Is that what we are calling Solyent Green now?

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:51PM (#30275328) Journal
    The obvious solution is some sort of horrid electrode array.

    Weak-kneed members of the public will have to be kept away from the giant culture vats, where hideous amorphous flesh lumps, studded with electrodes, thrash and strain; but they should be able to get exactly as much exercise as they need, without becoming excessively tough.
  • by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:53PM (#30275356) Homepage Journal

    The implications for space travel are cool. The implications for feeding people who currently live with hunger could be cool. I doubt they would ever completely do away with natural meat. It will probably always be available for those who can pay for it, but if this becomes cheaper and easier to make than raising animals I could see it becoming pretty big. I would think that if the process can be refined then we could get more meat with less environmental impact.

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:53PM (#30275368) Homepage Journal

    Ruling out some kind of vegetarian theocracy, that's not how economics works.

    Butchers sell sausages, most of which are cheap and tasty. Why do they do this? After all, how are they going to sell those expensive Wagu steaks if there's cheap sausages available in the same display cabinet. Are butchers just stupid? Clearly not. It's called growing the market. People who can't afford expensive steak don't go become vegetarians and never step into a butchers, they eat the cheaper meat, and on occasion they splurge on steak. A "cheaper than sausages" artificial meat will have the same effect.. for a start, people with ethical considerations will now be eating meat.. some of those people will lose those ethical considerations later in life and be tempted to sample the more expensive meat varieties.

  • Un-exercised meat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the Dragonweaver ( 460267 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:56PM (#30275420) Homepage

    So this could be a way to have guilt-free veal, I guess. Or foie gras.

    I would not be surprised if this is widely adopted in, say, 50 years' time. Epicureans will extol the values of "real" meat over vat meat, environmentalists will fight to make vat meat more affordable, and a generation of kids will wonder what the big deal is, meat is meat and they'd still rather play with the mashed potatoes.

  • by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:08PM (#30275636)
    It might be actually. Let's see:
    • It has no blood
    • It didn't need to be killed (rendering the rules of slaughter irrelevant)
    • It never had hooves, or any other body part that would be evaluated by the rules given in the Torah

    It's an odd scenario, and I suspect it would go different ways depending on the rabbi you ask. I suspect many rabbis would still forbid meat cloned from trafe animals, but I suspect vat-beef would be acceptable. But IANAR (I am not a rabbi) so I can't say for sure.

  • Exercizing Meat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by locallyunscene ( 1000523 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:09PM (#30275640)
    Could it be contracted and expanded with electric shocks?

    It's amazing that a vat full of electrified meat is more appetizing than current factory farms...
  • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:16PM (#30275762) Journal

    The implications for space travel are cool. The very long term implications for the meat industry are interesting. But the implications for those living with hunger are minimal. It's almost certainly still going to be more efficient to just live off grains, pulses et al. There might be some possibility that this stuff can be grown somewhat efficiently by feeding it with off low-cost nutrients that aren't fit for human consumption... but it will be a long time before that becomes cost effective and the supporting costs for growing this stuff (vats, heating, pumps, antibiotics or whatever else is required to keep growing meat without a supporting immune system healthy and pure) will also offset its cost effectiveness against vegetarian food sources.

    It's not impossible, but we already have means to turn low-quality nutrients (from a human point of view) into a nutritious textured product, and it's called Quorn [wikipedia.org]

    I don't pretend to speak for all vegetarians, but speaking personally, I think this has potential to be a great thing in replacing natural meat in people's diets. But I've no desire to eat it myself. Aside from general *yuck*, I'm quite happy with a healthy vegetarian diet and I know a lot of other vegetarians are also. We don't need to punish our colons by giving that up. But for those that might otherwise eat natural meat, this is probably a good thing. It is certainly interesting. I'm disappointed at the lack of pictures, but I guess they know it wouldn't help future marketing to have some Dr. Who alien slopping around in a tank. ;)
  • Why? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by kappa962 ( 1583621 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:19PM (#30275820)
    I'm not sure why this product is even necessary. Is a vegetarian diet really that awful that we need to market meat that doesn't come from animals to supplement it? If eating the flesh of previously living creatures is disgusting to you, why is fake meat any more appetizing? It's easy to say that it's takes less resources to produce than real meat, but how does it compare to the vegetable foods that we already have, and that are already quite delicious? Furthermore, from a culinary standpoint, it doesn't seem likely that it will ever match meat from a real animal.
  • Weird thought (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:22PM (#30275876) Journal
    Once this working, how soon will we see one of the processors start growing human cells? Seriously, it seems like Germany and other countries (including America) have a fetish these days for cannibalism. There would be no legal means of obtaining the meat from a real source, so no competition, though hopefully a SMALL market.
  • by Pranadevil2k ( 687232 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:23PM (#30275898)

    Do you really think the farmers of America (or any other country with lobbyists, for that matter) are going to let this happen? They're going to demonize the shit out of lab meat and complain to congress that they derk er jerbs, Then they'll be made some protected industry or subsidized by the government or some equally retarded bullshit. As I understand it the meat industry in America has a LOT of political weight to throw around.

  • by spidercoz ( 947220 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:24PM (#30275922) Journal
    If people stop eating actual animals, we'll be overrun with chickens in a decade. Up to our friggin' ears I tells ya! We'll have to carve our way through with machetes while wearing goalie masks.
  • Re:Tasteless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by demi ( 17616 ) * on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:31PM (#30276050) Homepage Journal

    Not just the fat, but the connective tissue and to a lesser extent dermal layers and blood vessels and the way that muscle near the bone is different--in short, all the various anatomy to a cut of meat that would be lacking in the most naïvely-produced artificial meat.

    However, eating a roast, chop or steak is an acid test that artificial meat doesn't really need to pass for many uses. People eat a huge amount of processed meat in nugget, sausage and additive form. Artificial meat can start there while coming up with generations of improved matrixes and structures that allow it to come closer to fine animal-sourced meat.

  • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:32PM (#30276064) Homepage Journal

    Not "Soylent Green" . . . The Space Merchants.

    Pohl & Kornbluth's novel features a conflict between the integrated advertising/production complex that is stripping the world of resources and manipulating the populace and the benighted Consies (conservationists). The lead is kidnapped, stripped of his identity, and forced into a contract labor job. He works in an urban algea farm. Most of the goop isn't consumed by humans. It is processed into blood substitute that feeds Chicken Little, a giant pulsing wad of chicken heart cells. One of the workers slices off pieces which are packaged and shipped off for consumption.

    This, in a 1952 novel by WWII veterans who worked in the advertising industry.

  • Re:My Hope (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mhajicek ( 1582795 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:32PM (#30276068)
    Bacon wrapped? My boy, you're not using your head. Take full advantage of the technology at hand. Think; bacon MARBLED fillet minions.
  • Re:Backfire on PETA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by greyhueofdoubt ( 1159527 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:35PM (#30276116) Homepage Journal

    Cows will be around for a while. We've had several different milk substitutes around for many years and people still drink plain old milk. Work on artificial cheese has come about as far as artificial meat due to the complexities of trying to make soy proteins act like milk proteins.

    One thing that is forgotten (or ignored) when discussing land use with regards to cattle is that a large majority of the rangeland in the u.s. is unsuitable for farming. In addition, certain breeds of cow can fatten up on land that would starve another breed; proper herd management can allow the animals to fatten up without destroying the soil and plants. This is why it always irks me a bit to hear people talk about how one cow uses enough land to grow wheat for 40 people or some nonsense. Here, take these seeds- go try to grow them out west in the free ranges.

    This meat-in-a-vat project has a long way to go- they need to figure out how to tone the muscle, marble it with fat, configure the nutrients to make the meat not taste like a chewable vitamin, etc.

    There's a taco bell near here; in 5 years I'll go sample the vat-meat.


  • Re:Cheers for PETA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maglor_83 ( 856254 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:40PM (#30276198)

    Is it ok if we make artificial human meat and eat that?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:40PM (#30276200)
    As opposed to now where the weak-kneed members of the public are kept away from the (insert PETA description here) factory farms and mechanized slaughtering houses? It really is quite horrible (not that it's enough to stop me eating meat).
  • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) * <scott@alfter.us> on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:48PM (#30276344) Homepage Journal

    Monoculturing any living tissue will require antibiotics of some sort. I really doubt that one can have a 100% clean factory environment for these, unless you have robots and robots to fix the robots ad-infinitum.

    Breweries do a pretty good job of maintaining a clean environment for the yeast to do its job, and they've never needed robots for that purpose.

  • Re:Cheers for PETA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zullnero ( 833754 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:52PM (#30276416) Homepage
    I don't see how vegetarians pointing out that eating meat, either grown in a vat or grown on a farm, is anything different than basically what they're all about. They're about not eating meat as a dietary/health issue, not about an animal rights issue. Of course PETA would make a statement that would make you feel good and you'd agree with, because their concern is whether living animals are being slaughtered, and not necessarily whether or not you're healthier by not eating them.

    With your response, I assume that one side agreed with you, and one didn't, so you patted the one who agreed with you on the back, and stupidly stomped the other one for not agreeing with you. And yes, I know it's /., but please, this shouldn't be all about YOU.
  • by physburn ( 1095481 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:52PM (#30276430) Homepage Journal
    Only very few animal type make up most of human consumed meat, a few breeds of cattle, sheep, birds and pigs. These animals live they short lives in often rotten conditions, and a consume vast amounts of grains and wheat. If people didn't eat meat, so much more land would be available, that we could feed everyone and still have a lot more land to return to the wild, thereby increasing biodiversity. Synthetic meat will no doubt save on at least half the land needed to feed a populous, and might well led to entirely new favours and textures of food.


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  • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:56PM (#30276480) Journal

    As I said in another post, biological systems are extremely complex; too complex to accurately copy, in many cases. A banana grown from seed in a lab will taste like a banana (obviously), but what about cells from a banana replicated on an artificial matrix? Reproducing the taste, texture, density, ripening characteristics and so on of the natural fruit takes more than just a mass of cells. When something as simple as an isomer of a chemical can alter how our senses react to it, keeping every factor identical to the natural system becomes very difficult.

    The real question is not whether this will be identical to natural meat, but how much it will differ and how detrimental (or indeed beneficial) those differences will be to the finished product.

  • by Maniacal ( 12626 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:11PM (#30276688)

    Perhaps it could be used to produce energy. I'm way out of my league here but I would imagine you could pump in proteins, oxygen and "food crud" to the meat and it's flexing motion could be used to produce electricity. Some of this electricity could be fed back to the system to provide the electrical stimulation the muscle needs. The rest goes to the grid.

  • by JDeane ( 1402533 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:17PM (#30276772) Journal

    my guess is that the factories at Intel or AMD are pretty clean (you could probably safely eat off the floor but in doing so you would horribly contaminate the factory) of course if this meat costs the same amount per ounce as a computer chip then I am pretty sure there will be no sale lol

    Not saying your not right about creating meat in a factory is just dirty work.
    Just saying that keeping it clean is not science fiction and may be possible.

  • by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@freds[ ]e.org ['hom' in gap]> on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:02PM (#30277352) Homepage

    Breweries do a pretty good job of maintaining a clean environment for the yeast to do its job, and they've never needed robots for that purpose.

    That's because yeast doesn't like it when other micro organisms tries to come on its turf. And yeast can get nasty.

    The best way to keep the nasties away isn't to keep a clean room. It's to keep friendly germs around to do the job for you. That's why (for example) completely sterilised cheese is stupid.

  • Re:Tasteless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:06PM (#30277398)

    That's true for some steaks, but the deep flavor of onglet (aka, hangar steak) comes directly from the meat. Your point about hamburgers makes no sense, given that the grinding process allows you to add fat -- hence why chefs consider Kobe hamburgers to be trendy idiocy. From Anthony Bourdain:

    The Kobe experience is principally about the marbling, the even distribution of fat through lean. A hamburger is a bunch of lean beef thrown into a grinder with varying degrees of fat. If you are foolish enough to order a Kobe burger, you are entirely missing the point. Firstly, the fat will melt right out of the thing while cooking. Secondly, you are asking the chef to destroy the very textural notes for which Kobe is valued by smarter people. Thirdly, for an eight-ounce Kobe burger, you are paying for the chef to feed you all the outer fat and scrap bits he trimmed off the outside of his “real” Kobe so he can afford to serve properly trimmed steaks to wiser patrons who know what the hell they’re doing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:27PM (#30277612)

    as another classically trained chef, you CAN marinade filet for 24 hours but it very much depends on what you marinade in- honey and white pepper marinated filet is delicious for a 24hr marinade although 12 will do. traditional marinades with high acidity (penetrative and corrosive vinegar or citrus for example) will, as the man says, destroy the integrity of the meat. filet or any good steak is best served in my opinion with as little seasoning as possible (and never salt- not ever- i mean ever! it will ruin any good steak)
    so you can tasty its natural meaty goodness.

  • Re:Cheers for PETA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tieTYT ( 989034 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:57PM (#30277888)

    I think it depends. Have you ever noticed that the cheese in Europe tastes way better than the cheese in America? I learned on the discovery/history channel (can't remember which) this is because the American pasteurization process is cheaper but it sacrifices the flavor of the cheese:

    Europe pasteurizes their cheese for longer at a lower temperature which makes it taste better. Americans pasteurize their cheese for shorter at a higher temperature which makes it cheaper to produce. So whether the fake meat will taste better really depends on the price it costs to make it and the effort involved.

    Here are some unrelated questions I have:
    -Why is it so difficult to find good cheese in America? I'd pay extra for that.
    -Will cattle farmers/etc. try to prevent the success of this like I've heard oil companies do with new forms of energy?
    -Will people that normally don't eat certain kinds of meat for religious reasons eat this?

  • Re:Cheers for PETA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dannon ( 142147 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @10:18PM (#30278408) Journal

    There's another interesting thought. As the story said:
    The big question is how could you guarantee you were eating artificial flesh rather than flesh from an animal that had been slaughtered.

    Let's twist it around the other way. Some folks might have a religious or dietary concern over this "fake meat". I mean, look at the big stink and controversy over genetically selected or modified strains of grain. Not to mention, does "fake meat" fit into kosher rules?

    How do I know that I'm getting "natural" meat? Even today with grain products and organic fruits and veggies, the FDA is a bit fuzzy on letting manufacturers label their products as "all natural".

  • by DahGhostfacedFiddlah ( 470393 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @10:36PM (#30278532)

    Cattle are one of the most successful species on the planet

    That really depends on your definition of success. I'll grant you that they're waaayy the hell up their in terms of population, but they've also had generations of natural evolutionary pressures removed from them, in favour of the evolutionary fitnesses we impose on them (tastier, bigger, producing more milk).

    If we decide to go with the whole meat-vat thing, that decision to throw in with the humans might not look so smart.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972