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Biotech Science

In-Vitro Muscle Cells, It's What's For Dinner 619

wanzeo writes "Within the last decade, many of us have experienced the encroachment of ethics into our mealtime. Phrases such as vegetarian, vegan, organic, bST, GMO, etc. have become part of common grocery store advertising. The most recent addition to the list of ethically charged food is in-vitro meat, or meat that was cultured in a petri dish, and was never part of a live animal. The project has been brought to fruition by Mark Post, a biologist at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. Grown using animal stem-cells on a nutrient medium, the nearly see-through strips of muscle would need to be stacked nearly 3,000 times to approach the thickness of a burger. The practice promises to be more humane, sustainable, and efficient than conventional meats, with one analysis suggesting it would, 'use 35 to 60 percent less energy, emit 80 to 95 percent less greenhouse gas and use around 98 percent less land.' In a world where nearly half of all crop production is used to feed livestock, a move towards artificial meat may be inevitable."
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In-Vitro Muscle Cells, It's What's For Dinner

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  • Chicken Little (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Sunday November 13, 2011 @11:10AM (#38041016) Journal
    I for one welcome our Vat-Grown Overlords []

    Chicken Little, a huge mass of cultured chicken breast, was kept alive by algae skimmed by nearly-slave labor from multistory towers of ponds surrounded by mirrors to focus the sunlight onto the ponds.

    Scum-skimming wasn't hard to learn. You got up at dawn. You gulped a breakfast sliced not long ago from Chicken Little and washed it down with Coffiest. You put on your coveralls and took the cargo net up to your tier. In blazing noon from sunrise to sunset you walked your acres of shallow tanks crusted with algae. If you walked slowly, every thirty seconds or so you spotted a patch at maturity, bursting with yummy carbohydrates. You skimmed the patch with your skimmer and slung it down the well, where it would be baled, or processed into glucose to feed Chicken Little, who would be sliced and packed to feed people from Baffinland to Little America.

    From The Space Merchants, by Frederik Pohl (w/CM Kornbluth).
    Published by St. Martin's Press in 1952

    Read the link for the references to the REAL "Chicken Little" experiment that started it all.

  • Folding (Score:4, Informative)

    by Relyx ( 52619 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @11:10AM (#38041018)

    If you need to stack the sheets 3000 times in order to approach the thickness of meat, you only have to fold them 12 times.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @11:32AM (#38041144)

    Nonsense there are plenty of dietary sources of protein that don't include eating meat. You make it sound like soybeans are the only source. Ultimately the reason why most vegans and vegetarians don't get enough meat isn't that it's impossible it's that they aren't doing their homework to make sure that they're getting the range of proteins necessary to get the complete ones that the body can't synthesize.

    I've personally known vegan powerlifters that showed absolutely no signs of protein deficiency.

  • Re:Food myths (Score:5, Informative)

    by affenhund ( 1371117 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @11:59AM (#38041300)

    People who think meat is inefficient compared to vegetable don't understand that Grazing animal use the massive tracts of un-airable land and don't require labor and oil and pesticide intensive production techniques. [...] Eat a banana and it probably traveled 2500 miles, was grown in a chopped-down rain forest, with massive amounts of pesticide.

    Excuse me, but you are either extremely naive or an idiot! You really think that the animals that were farmed for meat all grazed happily on green meadows? Yeah sure! These are all lies after all: "The escalation in forest destruction is driven by the global livestock industry. The vast majority (above 80%) of soybeans are bound for animal feedlots, providing protein for cattle, hogs and poultry. The European Union (EU) is the largest importer of Argentinian soybean meal, with imports to EU agribusinesses accounting for almost 50% of all global trade in soymeal (3)." []

  • Re:No thanks (Score:5, Informative)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:08PM (#38041350)
    You're the one talking out of your ass. Iodine levels in the US population are considered on average higher than they should be, according [] to the World Health Organization. Maybe you should check your information before you parrot.
  • Re:Ethics? (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Grim Reefer2 ( 1195989 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:10PM (#38041360)

    NO. Cultured meat is the product of a factory. Cow meat is the product of an inhumane series of tortures inflicted on a helpless animal.

    Cows have been domesticated to the point that I seriously doubt the species could survive on it's own. If it ever comes to pass that synthetic meat supplants them then I'd guess that they'd quickly become an endangered/extinct species. At that point no one will be intentionally setting aside huge pastures for them to graze in . They would become a large destructive animal that has little to no natural habitat left.

  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:15PM (#38041382)

    There are many types of vegetarians, those who consume milk, eggs and honey won't have such problems. Also, most vegetarians I know eat fish. And even the hardcore zealots can survive by eating algae []. And they won't eat gelatin as it's made of animal bones.

  • bullshit. (Score:5, Informative)

    by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:23PM (#38041416) Homepage []
    For human consumption, soybeans must be cooked with "wet" heat to destroy the trypsin inhibitors (serine protease inhibitors). Raw soybeans, including the immature green form, are toxic to humans, swine, chickens, and in fact, all monogastric animals.[12]
    gelatin, for its limited range of benefits that can easily be found in plants, is rather controversial too, as its potential to transmit BSE [] why not try some hempseed or flax seed instead? []
  • by saibot834 ( 1061528 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:59PM (#38041580)

    There is nothing unethical about eating meat.

    I seriously doubt that. These are the two most grave concerns:

    Animal pain. Animals do feel pain, and from the universal viewpoint of ethics, it doesn't matter whether it's you, me, some other human, an ape or a chicken that gets tortured. Pain is pain and our practices in factory farming causes a lot of it for only a little benefit, which is extremely unethical. (I know there are other approaches to animal's status, but there is no notable modern moral philosopher who disputes that the suffering of animals is a serious concern)

    Environment. Did you know that animal production accounts for more greenhouse gases than all of the world's transportation? Yup, and that's not some veggie organization that claims that, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) []. It also takes up a lot of water, energy and is responsible for much of the destruction of the jungle.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:13PM (#38041682)

    "much like they now mix beef from several different continents together to get a single patty."

    Do you have a source for this? I am from the UK and they claim on their webpage that their beef is from British cows. Is there something to back up that this is a lie, or is it based on the theory of self-evidence?

  • by Opyros ( 1153335 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:59PM (#38042004) Journal
    Possibly The Food of the Gods [], by Arthur C. Clarke?
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @03:14PM (#38042480) Journal
    The movie is titled . Soylent Green []. Charlton Heston played the lead. It is a whodunnit set in future where the Earth has completely exhausted resources and the government is distributing the soylent red and soylent green wafers, ostensibly derived from sea weed. Shocking revelation is that oceans have turned caustic and they do not support life. Then where do these wafers come from? Charlton finds out, but could not escape the goons chasing him. He just manages to deliver one short message to others, "Soylent.... Green... is.... people".
  • Re:Food myths (Score:4, Informative)

    by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @04:43PM (#38043040) []

    "Grass-fed beef has a distinctly different and “grassy” flavor compared with feed-lot beef and also costs more. A recent comparison in The Village Voice cooked up one-pound grass-fed and grain-fed steaks. The grass-fed meat tasted better, according to the article, but at $26 a pound, also cost about three times more."

    Sure, there are tons of grazing animals. They still cost three times more per pound than cornfed or CAFO operation beef.

  • Re:Monsanto (Score:4, Informative)

    by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @05:48PM (#38043322)

    I was just trying to make the point that we are being force-fed GM foods

    Who, exactly, is forcing you to eat genetically engineered food? Because there's a huge difference between you being too lazy to learn what is GE and what isn't, and someone forcing you to eat it. You're free not to eat it. You're free to buy organic food, or foods containing only crops that aren't genetically engineered. That's like a Muslim saying he's being force fed non-Halal beef. Saying you're being 'force-fed' GE crops is just being dramatic and deceitful.

    And before you give me the ever popular 'oh but its not labeled so how do I know?' schtick, then listen up: corn, soy, canola, cotton, papaya (from Hawaii), summer squash, and soon, suger beet and alfalfa. If it has those in it, assume its GE. No other crop currently on the market is GE (well, there were potatoes and tomatoes but they were discontinued, and in Iran they've got GE rice). 15 seconds on Google, now you don't have to play the lazy victim anymore. You're welcome. And for reference, guess what else isn't labeled: fruit from grafted trees or vegetables/grains from hybrid seed. Not the same thing? Funny because throughout history people have made the same accusations at them that people make at GE crops today. I get that agricultural history is pretty boring but it sure is insightful. In fact, no plant improvement method is labeled. If you didn't want food produced with mutagens, induced polyploidy, tissue culture/somaclonal variation, marker assisted breeding, sport selection, your argument holds the same weight. What if I don't want wheat bred from strains altered with mutagenic radiation, or apples selected from sports, or bananas produced from tissue cultured clones plants, or citrus with extra chromosomes? Because guess what, they're all there, on the market, right now, no labeling, no safety testing. The only difference is that no one's ever made stink about them. You're irrationally singling out one thing while irrationally ignoring all the other genetic changes that are made to crops, which are almost always much larger and much more random and less understood than inserting a gene or two with GE

    there have been no long term studies as to safety.

    So, these studies [], this study [], this one [], this one, [] this one [], didn't happen, and neither did any of these. [] You might want to do a bit more research before making statements like that. You know, they don't need to do safety testing for any other type of plant improvement, which is genetic modification (although not genetic engineering). I'm not saying they shouldn't be tested, but these things are plants, not drugs. If there isn't anything new in the that is biologically active, there is no reason to think that they're suddenly going to be dangerous (at least, no more than there is for any other type of genetic alteration). The cry proteins & EPSPS proteins (the two main ones inserted in GE crops right now) are NOT dangerous. That's not my opinion, that is the conclusion of pretty much all the literature on the subject, and just you haven't read it doesn't make it any less true.

    Call me crazy, but I still want to make my own life choices, and not have the government and corporations make them for me.

    Crazy, maybe not, but uninformed, absolutely. And government and corporations are not making the decision for you, they're making it for everyone else. If farmers want to g

  • Re:Monsanto (Score:4, Informative)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @09:36PM (#38044536)
    All of those points above have been thought of which is why it's taking so long to develop something that resembles muscle tissue. Here's an interview of a scientist working on it - audio and transcript:
    Growing meat in the lab (

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan