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Food News

Cows In Space: Scientists Working to Make Meat in Laboratories

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Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 9:00 AM
click to enlarge SANTA MONICA FARMERS MARKET
  • Santa Monica farmers market

Meat is more trendy than cupcakes these days, with all standard apologies to Morrissey. Consider the seemingly permanent bacon trend, the rising popularity of butchery, happy whole pig farm-to-table excursions, and local butchers who generate so much interest that they become minor rock stars even before they open a shop. To meet the need -- as well as, oh right, the need of a ballooning population -- scientists are now trying to make their own. Meat, that is.

Reuters reports that a South Carolina developmental biologist and tissue engineer has been working for a decade to make meat in a lab. Dr. Vladimir Mironov, M.D., Ph.D., is one of only a few scientists worldwide involved in bioengineering "cultured" meat.

"It will be functional, natural, designed food," Mironov told Reuters. "How do you want it to taste? You want a little bit of fat, you want pork, you want lamb? We design exactly what you want. We can design texture."

Nicholas Genovese, a visiting scholar in cancer cell biology who has been working under a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (good to know PETA is on this) three-year grant to run Dr. Mironov's meat-growing lab, realizes that "There's a yuck factor when people find out meat is grown in a lab."

The scientists are imagining enormous buildings the size of football fields with large bioreactors, and even smaller biorectors in grocery stores which will produce the "charlem," the name they've coined for "Charleston-engineered meat."

Cultured meat may be weird, but it could also be highly efficient. A whole lot more so than the current system. Says Genovese: "People will need to produce food in space and you can't take a cow with you."

Or that acorn-finished Berkshire pig. Note to self.

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