Archive for test tube meat

Test Tube Burgers

ABSTRACT: ANNALS OF SCIENCE about the future of cultured meat. Willem van Eelen was born in 1923 in the Dutch East Indies, yet his youth of freedom ended abruptly on May 10, 1940—the day the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. Van Eelen enlisted and served in Indonesia, but he was eventually captured and spent most of the war as a prisoner, dragged from one P.O.W. camp to another. After the war, he studied psychology at the University of Amsterdam, but he struggled with the intertwined memories of starvation and animal abuse in the camps. At one lecture, he was seized by an idea: “Why can’t we grow meat outside of the body? Make it in a laboratory, as we make so many other things.” In-vitro meat can be made by placing a few cells in a nutrient mixture that helps them proliferate. As the cells begin to grow together, forming muscle tissue, they are attached to a biodegradable scaffold. There the tissue can be stretched and molded into food, which could, in theory, be sold, cooked, and consumed like any processed meat. Most people laughed when they heard about van Eelen’s project—it took decades for the science to catch up to his imagination. That began to happen in 1981, when stems cells were discovered in mice. In 1999, van Eelen received U.S. and international patents for the Industrial Production of Meat Using Cell Culture Methods. A new discipline, propelled by an unlikely combination of stem-cell biologists, tissue engineers, animal-rights activists, and environmentalists, has emerged in both Europe and the U.S. Teams are forming at universities around the world. Mentions Vladimir Mironov and PETA. Lab-grown meat raises powerful questions about what most people see as the boundaries of nature and the basic definitions of life. Yet our patterns of meat consumption have become increasingly dangerous for both individuals and the planet. The global livestock industry is responsible for nearly twenty per cent of humanity’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Cattle consume nearly ten per cent of the world’s freshwater resources, and eighty per cent of all farmland is devoted to the production of meat. The consequences of eating meat, and our increasing reliance on factory farms, are almost as disturbing for human health. Vascular biologist Mark Post says, “The goal [of cultured meat] is to create the volume previously provided by a million animals.” Mentions the Eindhoven University of Technology and Daisy van der Schaft. Describes the process of growing meat in a laboratory. Mentions Stone Barns and chef Dan Barber. The moral and ethical issues that would accompany the use of lab-grown beef may ultimately prove more intractable than the scientific issues. Mentions Princeton philosopher Peter Singer.