Synthetic meat aka sci-fi sausage, factory fillet, laboratory lamb…it’s an amateur’s alliteration amusement.
In vitro meat is an animal flesh product grown in a lab. IVM is grown in a laboratory from actual animal tissue, so it’s an animal product, not a meat substitute. Don’t confuse this synthetic meat with imitation meat; a vegetarian product produced from soy or gluten.
To make synthetic meat, cells are taken from an animal and enriched using a broth of amino acids, sugars, lipids etc. It is then placed in a bioreactor to grow muscle in a few weeks. Texture is created by exercising the meat; by stretching and stimulating it with electrical impulses.
Currently there are several research projects growing in vitro meat experimentally, but no meat has yet been produced for public consumption. But once it is produced safely, and more importantly, cheaper than traditional meat, we will see a shift to IVM. There will no doubt be resistance from the $2 trillion global live-meat industry; but money talks and bullshit (sic) walks. On-going fears of swine flu, Mad Cow, and avian flu diseases will only further assist the paradigm shift.
And for those of us who may harbour more exotic culinary desires; IVM can recreate any animal meat. Yip – you could tuck into a rare snow leopard, or a tasty panda steak. Hey – hipsters may even fancy a bit of cannibalism.
Todays’ meat-producing system is simply not efficient or sustainable. Cattle crap 130 times more volume than a human. Our livestock burps, farts and shits more than the Barmy Army on an Ashes tour.
Most of us aspire to the notion of healthy and natural food. Compared to the current unnaturalness of industrial animal farming, cultured meat would be undoubtedly a progressive step in terms of health, animal welfare and ecology.
Pros and Cons
A study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology reveals that full-scale production of cultured meat could greatly reduce water, land and energy use, and emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases.
So - buying synthetic meat at the butcher is probably years away. Producing cultured meat for processed meat products like sausages and burgers should be comparatively simple. In-vitro steak will prove to be more of a challenge.
Thank goodness for that…