This is shmeat – artificially grown meat in a laboratory.
What is Shmeat, exactly?
Vladimir Mironov, M.D., Ph.D.,a developmental biologist and tissue engineer, has been working for a decade to grow meat, Shmeat, he calls it. Dr. Mironov, 56, is one of a few scientists worldwide involved in growing “cultured” meat. It’s a product he believes could help solve “future global food crises”. Growth of cultured meat is also under way in the Netherlands but in the United States, it is science in search of funding.
According to their website, appropriately called Shmeat,
Cells are harvested from a live animal, such as a chicken, pig or cow. The cells are then placed in a special solution of nutrients which mimics the qualities of blood. This nutrient solution will help the cells to multiply where they can then be secured to a spongy sheet which has been soaked with nutrient solution. The sheet is then stretched to increase cell size and protein content. It’s from the combination of this “sheet meat” that shmeat derives its name.
This news about growing meat has been around for awhile. And trust me when I say this; I did NOT want to research this topic. Remember what I said in my post about Frankenfish and that gross movie, “Soylent Green”? My fear is getting closer to a reality.: humans chewing on manufactured meat from unknown source. Gross.
Growing Meat in a Laboratory Needs Money. Lots of it.
It’s not cheap to grow meat and hard to get money for it. The new National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health wont fund it, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration funded it only briefly, according to Mironov. “It’s classic disruptive technology,” Mironov said. “Bringing any new technology on the market, average, costs $1 billion. We don’t even have $1 million.” Do you think that’s why it’s in the news again? Probably.
But guess who’s funding it?
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Yup. I was surprised and yet, not surprised. I mean, they are all about the animals, right? But how about human animals. They are willing to make humans eat this fake meat as long as no animals were harmed in the process? C’mon.
“There’s a yuck factor when people find out meat is grown in a lab. They don’t like to associate technology with food,” said Nicholas Genovese, 32, a visiting scholar in cancer cell biology working under a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals three-year grant to run Dr. Mironov’s meat-growing lab. “But there are a lot of products that we eat today that are considered natural that are produced in a similar manner,” Genovese said. “There’s yogurt, which is cultured yeast. You have wine production and beer production. These were not produced in laboratories. Society has accepted these products.” If wine is produced in winery, beer in a brewery and bread in a bakery. And now, meat in a cannery???
Is it good for the environment to grow meat?
If Mironov has his way, he envisions football field-sized buildings filled with large bioreactors, or bioreactors the size of a coffee machine in grocery stores, to manufacture what he calls “charlem” — “Charleston engineered meat.” “It will be functional, natural, designed food,” Mironov said. Cultured meat could eventually become cheaper than what Genovese called the heavily subsidized production of farm meat, he said, and if the public accepts cultured meat, the future holds benefits. “Thirty percent of the earth’s land surface area is associated with producing animal protein on farms,” Genovese said. “Animals require between 3 and 8 pounds of nutrient to make 1 pound of meat. It’s fairly inefficient. Animals consume food and produce waste. Cultured meat doesn’t have a digestive system.”
But molecular biologist Margaret Mellon from the Union of Concerned Scientists disagrees. “Tissue-cultured meat just doesn’t make sense to me,” she says. “I think it’s a very bad idea.” Mellon believes that all our food should be grown lightly on the land, using the riches of the Earth and the power of the sun — not in a factory. I love her! “Picture it: You’ve got a big compound of buildings with scientists running around tending big vats of cultured cells, making sure that they’re all at a constant temperature, that the cells are being kept sterile,” she says. “I mean, where does that energy come from? That’s a lot of fossil fuel.”
So, what do you think?
Let’s outline the dilemma. Shmeat is animal-friendly but bad for the environment. We have the technology but not very convincing reasons for the need. Uncertain technologies for fodder of possible nightmares.
Do we need more research to see if we need this research? You betcha.
I strongly feel that before we get to the eleventh hour like we did with Frankenfish and the recent approval of GE Alfalfa, we need to take proper steps to make sure that there are more research done to make sure that this technology is safe and that it makes sense.
Personally, if this technology gets approved, I am making my family become vegans. Finding out recently that I can’t eat jello or marshmallows was bad enough for me. This news definitely is making me go towards veganism very fast.
Sources: Reuters and NPR