In vitro meat
In vitro meat, also called victimless meat, cultured meat, tubesteak, cruelty-free meat, shmeat, and test-tube meat, is an animal-flesh product that has never been part of a living animal with exception of the fetal calf serum taken from a slaughtered cow. In the 21st century, several research projects have worked on in vitro meat in the laboratory. The first in vitro beefburger, created by a Dutch team, was eaten at a demonstration for the press in London in August 2013. There remain difficulties to be overcome before in vitro meat becomes commercially available. Cultured meat is prohibitively expensive, but it is expected that the cost could be reduced to compete with that of conventionally obtained meat as technology improves. In vitro meat is also a cultural issue. Some argue that it is less objectionable than traditionally obtained meat because it doesn't involve killing and reduces the risk of animal cruelty, while others disagree with eating meat that has not developed naturally.
- 1 History
- 2 Production
- 3 Research
- 4 Differences from conventional meat
- 5 In fiction
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.—Winston Churchill, Fifty Years Hence, The Strand Magazine (December 1931)
The theoretical possibility of growing meat in an industrial setting has long captured the public imagination.
In vitro cultivation of muscular fibers was performed as early as 1971 by Russell Ross. Indeed the abstract was "Smooth muscle derived from the inner media and intima of immature guinea pig aorta were grown for up to 8 wk in cell culture. The cells maintained the morphology of smooth muscle at all phases of their growth in culture. After growing to confluency, they grew in multiple overlapping layers. By 4 wk in culture, microfibrils (110 A) appeared within the spaces between the layers of cells. Basement membrane-like material also appeared adjacent to the cells. Analysis of the microfibrils showed that they have an amino acid composition similar to that of the microfibrillar protein of the intact elastic fiber. These investigations coupled with the radioautographic observations of the ability of aortic smooth muscle to synthesize and secrete extracellular proteins demonstrate that this cell is a connective tissue synthetic cell." For stem cells from animals, in vitro cultivation has been possible since the 1990s, including the production of small quantities of tissue which could, in principle be cooked and eaten. NASA has been conducting experiments since 2001, producing in vitro meat from turkey cells. The first edible sample was produced by the NSR/Touro Applied BioScience Research Consortium in 2002: goldfish cells grown to resemble fish fillets.
In 1998 Jon F. Vein of the United States filed for, and ultimately secured, a patent (US 6,835,390 B1) for the production of tissue engineered meat for human consumption, wherein muscle and fat cells would be grown in an integrated fashion to create food products such as beef, poultry and fish.
In 2001, dermatologist Wiete Westerhof from the University of Amsterdam, medical doctor Willem van Eelen, and businessman Willem van Kooten announced that they had filed for a worldwide patent on a process to produce in vitro meat. In the process, a matrix of collagen is seeded with muscle cells, which are then bathed in a nutritious solution and induced to divide. Scientists in Amsterdam study the culture medium, while the University of Utrecht studies the proliferation of muscle cells, and the Eindhoven University of Technology is researching bioreactors.
In 2003, Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr of the Tissue Culture and Art Project and Harvard Medical School exhibited in Nantes a "steak" a few centimetres wide, grown from frog stem cells, which was cooked and eaten.
The first peer-reviewed journal article published on the subject of laboratory-grown meat appeared in a 2005 issue of Tissue Engineering.
In 2008, PETA offered a $1 million prize to the first company to bring lab-grown chicken meat to consumers by 2012. The Dutch government has put US$4 million into experiments regarding in vitro meat. The In Vitro Meat Consortium, a group formed by international researchers interested in the technology, held the first international conference on the production of in vitro meat, hosted by the Food Research Institute of Norway in April 2008, to discuss commercial possibilities. Time magazine declared in vitro meat production to be one of the 50 breakthrough ideas of 2009. In November 2009, scientists from the Netherlands announced they had managed to grow meat in the laboratory using the cells from a live pig.
As of 2012, 30 laboratories from around the world have announced they're working on in vitro meat research.
First public trial
On August 5, 2013, the world's first lab-grown burger was cooked and eaten at a news conference in London. Scientists from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, led by professor Mark Post, had taken stem cells from a cow and grown them into strips of muscle which they then combined to make a burger. The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGeown of Couch's Great House Restaurant, Polperro, Cornwall, and tasted by critics Hanni Ruetzler, a food researcher from the Future Food Studio and Josh Schonwald. Ruetzler stated,
There is really a bite to it, there is quite some flavour with the browning. I know there is no fat in it so I didn't really know how juicy it would be, but there is quite some intense taste; it's close to meat, it's not that juicy, but the consistency is perfect. This is meat to me... It's really something to bite on and I think the look is quite similar.
Tissue for the London demonstration was cultivated in May 2013, using about 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue. Funding of around €250,000 came from an anonymous donor later revealed to be Sergey Brin. Post remarked that "there’s no reason why it can’t be cheaper...If we can reduce the global herd a millionfold, then I’m happy". Still Post estimates it will probably take at least a decade before the process becomes commercially viable.
The process of developing in vitro meat involves taking muscle cells and applying a protein that promotes tissue growth. Once this process has been started, it would be theoretically possible to continue producing meat indefinitely without introducing new cells from a living organism.