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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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  • by thewiz ( 24994 ) * on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:50PM (#30275304)

    "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."

    Simple: Add a gene that would make the artificial meat a recognizable color.

    Instead of green eggs and ham we'll have green ham and eggs!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jpmorgan ( 517966 )

      A simpler way would be to look at the price. Once they figure it out, artificial meat will be cheap. I suspect in the future, we'll look back on that question and consider it the same as 'but how will I be able to tell if someone replaces my cubic zirconia with a real diamond!' Um... because anybody doing that would be stupid?

      I would bet that the first place it'll show up is in all those '50% meat protein' processed foods you see in frozen foods sections.

    • Produce tracking. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Toze ( 1668155 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:09PM (#30276664)
      I hate to tell you this, but "add a gene" isn't the simple solution. The simple solution, which also covers BSE-infected meat, salmonella outbreaks, and any other food safety issue, involves implementing a tracking system from farm to table. It's not difficult, and should have been done years ago. In fact, Canadian produce farmers already have nearly 100% tracking of their goods, while the US is at 5% [ift.org]. It's good for consumers, and it's good for producers.
  • Cheers for PETA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:50PM (#30275306)

    For once, they make a rational and decent statement! This is a big improvement over their stupid tirade about Obama swatting a housefly.

    The Vegetarian Society, OTOH, with their statement shows themselves to be still a bunch of extremists.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by maglor_83 ( 856254 )

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zullnero ( 833754 )
      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
  • by Joe Snipe ( 224958 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:52PM (#30275332) Homepage Journal

    The big question is how could you guarantee you were eating artificial flesh rather than flesh from an animal that had been slaughtered.

    I'm sure that the "artificial" meat will cost a third of traditional meats.

  • by danaris ( 525051 ) <danarisNO@SPAMmac.com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:52PM (#30275340) Homepage

    If done correctly, and without horrible hidden side effects of some sort, this could be huge. Removing the need to have an actual cow born, raised, fed, and kept in order to be able to make hamburger would remove a tremendous amount of damage to the environment, as well as opening up a lot of land to be available for use growing food for humans, rather than growing food for animals or being pasturage for animals.

    I'd try and list all the different effects it could have, but I think I'd have to go on for pages...and besides, I'm sure someone else will have done it by the time I post ;-)

    Dan Aris

    • 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 SlipperHat ( 1185737 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:54PM (#30275382)

    claimed by KFC.

    (I'm joking)

  • 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 liquiddark ( 719647 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:58PM (#30275448)
    Sounds like it's time to get in on the Long Pork market.
  • by mbstone ( 457308 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:59PM (#30275486)

    What, Eindhoven University doesn't have "student food service"? My alma mater would have served up the stuff in a New York minute along with the usual by-products, fillers, and cereals....

  • My Hope (Score:5, Funny)

    by kevinNCSU ( 1531307 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @05:59PM (#30275492)
    My Hope is that this technology can one day provide us with cheap easily produced bacon-wrapped steak and other meats. My true hope is that some sort of animal will be produced that will grow in some sort of bacon wrapped configuration because I want to gaze upon this delicious animal frolicking mouth-waterlingly in an open field before I eat it.
  • Tasteless (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThreeGigs ( 239452 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:00PM (#30275502)

    As a foodie, all I have to say is that a large part of the taste of a good steak comes from the FAT content of the meat, and that _pure_ 'cultivated' muscle tissue would make for a terrible steak, and an even worse hamburger.

    Until they manage to grow a well-marbled piece of meat, they won't be any better than a tofu burger.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by demi ( 17616 ) *

      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

    • Re:Tasteless (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Toze ( 1668155 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:17PM (#30276786)
      I put to you that a fast-food chain, given the option to guarantee a steady supply of meat of identical quality, unaffected by drought and not "fed" (and therefore not really susceptible to BSE/etc), that takes less than two years to produce, whose cost is unaffected by fluctuations in the international grain or corn market, is likely to make the investment the second the twenty-year costs come even. I also put to you that fast food chain's burgers are flavoured less by meat and more by seasoning. As someone whose family already sold their beef ranch, and who consumes a lot of beef, I think this is a fantastic idea.
  • Backfire on PETA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:00PM (#30275510)
    This Artifical Meat is going to backfire on PETA. If, in 5-10 years, this Artificial Meat market becomes big enough to surpass traditional meat harvesting techniques, what does PETA think will happen to all that cattle and other like animals? What are we just going to give them up and let them live free? No, we'll slaughter the livestock we have as we transition to the new method. Then, we expand over the previous land we used to graze and keep the animals; replacing (more or less) open land with whatever vats, structures, and buildings we need to develope SyntheSteak. Domesticated populations will plummet and wild populations will be no better off, the net result will be fewer animals in the world (but more meat!)

    Don't read too much into this yammering post; I'm all for this idea.

    I simply wonder why PETA still thinks being stuck in the farm is worse than what we've (historically) done to animals that don't serve as useful a purpose. If the cow or pig isn't being used, I would expect us to (intentionally or not) create conditions in their environment which pushes them out and dwindles their population, not unlike we've done to wolves or such.
    • 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.


  • by coolmoose25 ( 1057210 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:01PM (#30275518)
    From the article...

    "The cells were then incubated in a solution containing nutrients to encourage them to multiply indefinitely. This nutritious “broth” is derived from the blood products of animal foetuses, although the intention is to come up with a synthetic solution.

    So lets see... leaving aside for the moment blood borne illness issues, right now we'd have to grow the "artificial" meat using animal fetus blood... and where will we get all that animal fetus blood? Perhaps we can just raise animal fetuses? And how will the "synthetic" solution be made? From "synthetic" fetuses? Turtles all the way down, I think.

  • 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 fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:11PM (#30275666)

    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

    Better Off Ted [wikipedia.org] Episode 2: "Heroes": Phil and Lem, of Veridian Dynamics [veridiandynamics.com], try to grow cow-less meat... Reportedly, the meat currently tastes like "despair".

    Veridian Dynamics. We're the future of food, developing the next generation of food and food-like products. Tomatoes... the size of this baby, lemon-flavored fish, chicken that lay 16 eggs a day, which is a lot for a chicken, organic vegetables chock-full of antidepressants. At Veridian Dynamics, we can even make radishes so spicy that people can't eat them, but we're not, because people can't eat them. Veridian Dynamics. Food. Yum.

  • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:18PM (#30275796)

    I find the phrasing pretty weak, about being hard to come up with a label "people" would trust. Sounds like hedging between saying "we don't want to trust the lable" but not wanting to call anyone a liar. People trust the label on organic foods; why would this be harder?

    To me labeling isn't the interesting question (but then, I'm no vegitarian). To me the interesting question is economic, and only if the economics make this product something uninteresting to me do the labeling issues even come into play. I can see three possible outcomes:

    1) This approach hits a dead end, and it turns out you just can't make high-quality meat that's fit for human consumption in a lab. The researchers seem convinced that won't happen, so moving on...

    2) The approach works, but the cost to make this meat exceeds the cost of doing it the old-fashioned way. I'm optimistic enough to doubt this; consider all of the energy costs involved in raising livestock. But who knows what will be required to make "good" artificial meat; maybe this is how it goes down. In that case, it won't add noticably to the food supply in an economic sense, and it becomes uninteresting to me. It remains intersting to PETA (since they don't want to eat "real" meat). There's niche demand for it, but it's more expensive than "real" meat - conditions that would make it possible to have mis-labeling if the food manufacturers were very careful about it.

    3) The approach works and produces meat more cheaply than you can raise "real" meat. This is the only case where I care about the idea, because in this case you actually increase the food supply; but in that case, nobody has a reason to mislabel a more expensive product and sell it to you as a less-expensive product. Even if they were just jerks who wanted to trick you into eating something you don't want to eat, they'd never be able to pull it off. (How do you hide a slaughtering operation from regulators?)

  • 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 jocabergs ( 1688456 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:22PM (#30275884)
    The sustenance angle is all well and good; however, what I want to know is how long till the "real flesh" fleshlight?
  • Not so fast... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nilbog ( 732352 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:24PM (#30275920) Homepage Journal

    I'm not skeptical of the story, but I am skeptical that PETA won't have something to say about it if and when this hits production. This has the possibility of being revolutionary to the way we eat. If we don't have to wait for actual animals to grow, and can grow only the good parts without wasting money on all the unnecessary parts, we can grow meat faster and cheaper that would also be better (just clone the best animal to begin with!)

    I will be the first in line to eat cloned meat.

  • by spidercoz ( 947220 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:28PM (#30275978) Journal
    now we can fill in the rest of the Soylent rainbow

    save me some Soylent Purple
  • From The Article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:29PM (#30276004)

    "[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."""

    Oh please. What you do, then, is get off your lazy skeptic butt and go to the place they are making the meat and look around. Get official people you trust as a vegetarian (whatever that means) to go investigate and report. From that report, which you trust, you should be able to know if it is coming from killed animals or from tissue generation.

    This skepticism is undue and irrational. They assume that because it is possible for an animal-slaughtering meat company to 'trick' customers by pretending it was grown in tissue culture, that it may necessarily be true.... That's garbage. In reality, a company carrying out deception of this magnitude would not go unnoticed and would probably be sued.

    You have to think: thousands of people work in meat processing plants. Every single one of them would have to be the best secret keeper on the planet for the suggested 'truth' to not be found out. And if there is anything we can know about secrets is that the more people that know it, the less likely it stays secret.

    As a matter of fact, even when only one person (the secret creator) knows a secret, it isn't safe. People are eager to share secrets. And once the number becomes 2 or more, the odds of it remaining secret reduce dramatically.

    And now I return fire with an equally ridiculous claim: The Vegetarian Society is only trying to question this so they can get me to quit eating meat, thus eat more veggies, and end up dying from rhubarb poison on accident (but on purpose because they meant to do it)!

    Damn vegetarian society could probably be trying to kill us all!

  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @06:30PM (#30276024) Journal

    OK, how do you produce the equivalent of 1 million animals with one animal without violating the laws of thermodynamics?
    In order to get the same calories out you need to get the same, or more, calories in. For meat it is in the range of 10 times the calories from veggies (e.g. corn) to get one calorie of meat.

    They talk about a "meat broth". This is where the calories come from. No big change. In fact it may be worse since it is higher on the food chain, you have to first produce the meat for the broth then grow the "meat" stuff. And if they switch to veg. protein we would be better off eating soy or tempeh.

    I shudder to think of the meat rendering waste they will use for the broth. And if meat is still required to make meat, PETA just screwed up.

    • by rm999 ( 775449 )

      I'm not sure what you think thermodynamics means, but it is not what you appear to be saying. Meat is not the same thing as energy, and calories are not the same thing as meat (plants can create calories from air, water, and light). There is no law that says calories must be conserved in a closed system - the laws of thermodynamics only say this about energy. Maybe the scientists are heating the broth, or shining a light on it.

      And they never mention a "meat broth" - that phrase does not belong in quotes. Th

    • by Omegium ( 576650 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:20PM (#30276834)
      Because an animal spends a lot of time doing energy inefficient things like walking around, keeping itself warm, growing bones and brains and other useless parts. Only the fact that you can focus on the good parts will already give a profit. Btw, this technology is hardly new. I read about it years ago in our university newspaper (I am a student of the Eindhoven University of Technology). And at that time they also promised that there would be sausages in a couple of years. It sounds a bit like nuclear fusion
  • 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.

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