Saturday, 18 August 2012

Artificial Meat – Not As Far-fetched As You Might Think

Are test tube burgers coming to a grocery store near you?  Sounds like science fiction, and until recently, it actually was.
Now, the prospect of lab-grown meat appearing on our supermarket shelves is closer than ever. We aren’t talking about the whole cow, however. That would be an “udderly” different story.
Synthetic or test-tube meat involves taking a small amount of cells from a living animal and growing it into lumps of muscle tissue in the lab.  In theory, this can then be turned into meat for human consumption.
Scientists believe lab-grown meat could not only save animal lives, but could also help reduce the environmental impact of meat production.
Although the technology to create artificial meat has been around since the turn of the century – NASA looked into developing it for their astronaut program – making it edible and commercial viable remained out of reach. The other major hurdle for lab-grown meat to overcome is consumer acceptance. It is unknown whether consumers will accept it as an alternative to farm animal-based meat.
Scientist Gabor Forgacs, of the University of Missouri, specializes in tissue engineering. He works to create replacement tissue and organs for humans, and realized the same technology could be used to engineer meat for human consumption.
According to a CNN report, Forgacs’ company, Modern Meadows, has already attracted investors interested in the technology, including funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At the moment, though, he doesn’t think that this will be a product for the masses. More likely, lab-grown meat will be a niche item, like Kobe beef which current sells for $125 – $295 per kilo.

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