Share & Connect
Increasing attention is turning towards the what could become the sustainable alternative to livestock – test tube meat. Speculation that the current food market will be unable to provide for the world’s growing population, projected at 9.3 billion by 2050 by the U.S. Census Bureau, has led to the development of in vitro meat.
Experts in Holland were the first to use cells from a live pig to replicate growth in a petri dish, resulting in the advent of “in vitro” or cultured meat. The break through is hypothesized to reduce billions of tons of greenhouse gases emitted each year by farm animals, solve world hunger and put an end to the ethical impacts of the meat industry.
So far the biggest slab of meat grown is about the size of a contact lens which contains millions of cells. The next step is to try turning these cells into muscle tissues through the use of biodegradable scaffolding platforms which will be the same sort of meat taken from the flesh of an animal.
However, muscles require stimulation or else the atrophy and die. To solve this problem with lab-cultured meat, scientists are currently using electrical impulses to stimulate the muscle cells grown in the lab, but have yet to discover a mass-factory scale solution.
Eventually there should be no differential between the taste of animal meat and test-tube meat, leading from the production of mincemeat to that of steak. While the product may be initially unappealing to many, the statistics make a compelling case for the animal substitute.
This more sustainable method of producing protein promises to increase the changes of food security for the world’s poor while simultaneously protecting the environment. The projected resource savings from artificial meat in an Oxford study estimated that it could be engineered to use only 1 percent of the land and 4 percent of the water required for conventional meat.
According to the scientists from Oxford University and Amsterdam University, that means that lab-grown tissue would reduce greenhouse gases by up to 96 percent in comparison to raising animals. The link between meat consumption and climate change have been widely acknowledged for years, due to the deforestation which often comes along with livestock farming.
In an increasingly crowded world where there are 925 million chronically hungry people, according to the UN’s World Food Program, a more sustainable approach to food is desperately needed. More than one in seven people do not have enough protein and energy in their diet, with 98 percent living in the developing world.
Increased meat-eating has long been associated with a country’s rising affluence, but perhaps man-made meat could change all of that. Hanna Tuomisto, a researcher at Oxford University, believes that aside from the environmental benefits, lab-cultured meat would also provide cheap nutrition.
Tuomisto also predicts that if more resources were put into the research, the first commercially lab-grown meat could be available within the next five years. Due to the interconnected nature of the potential problem solving test tube meat, groups such as the anti-meat organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are already contributing to more research.
To Read 8 Ways In Vitro Meat Will Change Our Lives, visit http://hplusmagazine.com/2009/11/17/eight-ways-vitro-meat-will-change-our-lives/