In the first week of September, 2011, researchers were meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden, to ‘plot out a path towards meat without slaughter’ (New Scientist, 3rd September 2011 No2828 pp8-9. Yep, the lab just became the new game park with the trophy being synthesised lion ribs and silverback silverside, or at least that’s a possibility canvassed by bioethicist Stellan Welin who is cited as saying that because creating exotic meats in the lab wouldn’t be killing the animals ‘some of the ethical questions posed by panda burgers could be sidestepped’. New Scientist also says that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has put up $1million for the first commercial synthetic meat.
So, where have these new big game hunters got to so far?
Mark Post of Maastricht Uni, Netherlands, has apparently made muscle by feeding pig stem cells with horse foetal serum – now there’s a breakfast of champions! He’s grown muscle strips 2.5cm long and 0.7cm wide, which he exercises each day by anchoring them to Velcro strips and stretching. Charles Atlas eat your heart out – can’t wait till the strips kick sand in Post’s face. Mind you, they need the exercise as they are apparently anaemic because they lack blood and very little mycoglobin, the iron bearing protein. Post is quoted as saying ‘I’m hopeful we can have hamburger in a year’. Whoa, Mark, last time I saw hamburger meat raw it was fair dripping with blood, and it wasn’t all muscle either. I for one like some fat in my burger mince to get that greasy, syrupy flavour soaking into my bun. And I like my steak and roast rare with blooded, not just red coloured, juices to sop up so I’m not planning on sinking my teeth into synth meat from your lab just yet.
And what about the taste, you ask? Well, apparently there currently are strict regulations against consuming lab grown muscle tissue fed on calf foetal serum because of a low risk they may contain prions or other nasties. So, no-one’s put any of this synth stuff in their mouth, or at least they aren’t owning up to it.
Hmmm, bloodless, potentially tasteless, boot-camped synth muscle – nope, it isn’t doing it for me. It’s back to my friendly neighbourhood halal butcher for the foreseeable future for me.