"We believe that cultured meat is part of the
future," said Cor van der Weele of Wageningen University in The Netherlands.
"Other parts of the future are partly substituting meat with vegetarian
products, keeping fewer animals in better circumstances, perhaps eating insects,
etc. This discussion is certainly part of the future in that it is part of the
search for a 'protein transition.' It is highly effective in stimulating a
growing awareness and discussion of the problems of meat production and
van der Weele and coauthor Johannes Tramper point
out that the rising demand for meat around the world is unsustainable in terms
of environmental pollution and energy consumption, not to mention the animal
suffering associated with factory farming.
van der Weele said she first heard about cultured
meat in 2004, when frog steaks were served at a French museum while the donor
frog watched on (http://tcaproject.org/projects/victimless/cuisine). Tramper has
studied the cultivation of animal cells—insect cells mostly—in the lab for
almost 30 years. In 2007, he published a paper suggesting that insect cells
might be useful as a food source.
It is already possible to make meat from stem cells.
To prove it, Mark Post, a professor of tissue engineering at Maastricht
University, The Netherlands, presented the first lab-grown hamburger in 2013.
In the new Science & Society paper, van der Weele
and Tramper outline a potential meat manufacturing process, starting with a vial
of cells taken from a cell bank and ending with a pressed cake of minced meat.
But there will be challenges when it comes to maintaining a continuous stem cell
line and producing cultured meat that's cheaper than meat obtained in the usual
way. Most likely, the price of "normal" meat would first have to rise
Still, the promise is too great to ignore.
"Cultured meat has great moral promise," write van
der Weele and Tramper. "Worries about its unnaturalness might be met through
small-scale production methods that allow close contact with cell-donor animals,
thereby reversing feelings of alienation. From a technological perspective,
'village-scale' production is also a promising option."
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