Could cultured meat be the answer to the global food crisis?

Scientists in Europe have been constructing what hopes to become a key source of sustainable protein for the future, vitro meat.

Dr Mark Post from the University of Maastricht, has painstaking created a vitro meat hamburger which has been assembled from minute pieces of beef muscle tissue which has been grown in a laboratory as reported by the New York Times.

The vitro meat burger, is to be cooked and consumed at an event in London which aims to show the world the potential of this curious creation and convince investors that it will be a viable and potentially profitable venture in the long term.

The idea of creating laboratory meat seems to be a logical step in the face of a global strain of the food supply, not to mention the invaluable environmental and animal welfare benefits of a smaller livestock industry.

A study in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology, found that full-scale production of vitro meat, or cultured meat, would greatly reduce strain on global resources just as water, land and energy as well as deliver a significant decrease in methane emissions and greenhouse gases.

Post has become one of the world’s leading researchers in the development of cultured meat through the use of stem cells. The burger created by Post consists of 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue and he claims that the meat “tastes reasonably good.”

The meat which requires a significant amount of materials to produce, including fetal calf serum, has been created at a staggering US$325,000, making the competitiveness of large scale manufacturing somewhat far off compared to conventional methods.

“If it can be done more efficiently, there’s no reason why it can’t be cheaper,” said Post.

“It has to be done using the right materials, introducing recycling into the system, controlling labour through automation.”

Hanna Tuomisto from the University of Oxford in England agrees stating that cultured meat has the potential to offer significant cost advantages as expenses associated with feeding livestock would be eliminated.

“It’s really about the conversation of feed to meat,” she said.

“In cultured meat production it’s much more efficient; only the meat is produced, and not all the other parts.”

Another issue aside from cost is the safety of the lab made cultured meat.

Post claims that cultured meat should be just as, if not safer than conventional meat, and may possibly be a healthier option. The main hurdle is consumer acceptance which Post admits will be a challenge.

“I see the major hurdles, probably better than anybody else,” he said. “But you’ve got to have faith in technologies advances, that they will be solved.”

"The point is, we already have sufficient technology to make a product that we could call meat or cultured beef, and we can eat it and we survive,"

"I'm not by nature a very passionate guy," he added. "But I feel strongly that this could have a major impact on society in general. And that's a big motivator."


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