The darker side of lab-grown meat

Jon Condon, 13/02/2018




DESPITE all the popular media frenzy that’s circulated about prospects to produce ‘lab-grown’ conscience-free meat for your burger patty some time in the next few years, there’s a darker side to culturing muscle cells in a laboratory for food production.

Beef Central published this article yesterday on claims of environment ‘benefits’ surrounding lab-grown meat, which attracted considerable reader comment.

Fake meat, synthetic meat, test tube meat, franken-meat, clean meat – call it what you will – is the trend to grow meat artificially in a laboratory, and has been attracting some impressive billionaire investment backing and media interest in recent times.

What has been interesting in this era of ‘fake news’ and fact-checking is the number of media articles about fake meat that repeat claims by its commercial proponents that real meat is bad for just about everything, while lab grown meat is without ethical or environmental baggage – with no apparent attempt to verify those claims.

Beyond the perception that lab-grown meat must be ‘better for the environment’, another fundamental premise put forward by its animal rights supporters is that it conveniently does away with the need for an animal to die, in order to produce a meal.

Unlike traditional beef production, culturing animal cells in a petri-dish causes no harm or pain to a sentient animal, they insist.

But what’s not yet being discussed in any of the ‘gee-whiz’ publicity about lab-grown meat is the back story behind the medium needed to produce it.

According to a prominent Australian animal scientist spoken to by Beef Central, multiplying animal cells to create a form of meat protein in a lab requires the use of a medium based on foetal blood plasma.

Foetal blood is produced by slaughtering a pregnant cow, removing its unborn calf from its uterus, and harvesting the blood from it. While a synthetic alternative to foetal blood does exist, it is apparently prohibitively expensive to produce, the meat scientist said.

So much for ‘mortality free’ lab-grown meat production.

It’s messages like these that need to be put before consumers to ensure they make more balanced judgements about the future potential for laboratory grown meat.






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  1. Red Moon, 02/03/2024

    The chemical cocktail needed to make this work is beyond belief. What condition do the cows live in ? Are they clones? Are they allowed to roam the pasture, feel the sun? Does killing the calf not count as an animal fatality? Let the billionaire investors keep it for them selves. Let it be the only meat they eat. Along with the GMO and pesticide fruits and vegetables they insist are fine to eat.

  2. Shoba Nair, 10/12/2023

    Thank you for the information provided. I honestly didn’t know that taking a sample of cells from the animal to make cultured meat and killing the animal altogether is no different to the animal. I wonder if the cultured meat will be fed with growth hormones to grow them bigger faster? Will it be fed with antibiotics to prevent the spread of diseases? Will zoonotic viruses be released with the production of cultured meat? Do we need as much water and land that we currently use in animal agriculture to produce cultured meat? Will cultured meat produce as much fecal matter and urine as produced by the animals in animal agriculture that is currently polluting our waters and producing ocean dead zones and acidification? Will we need to clear forests to produce cultured meat? Cattle ranching and soy cultivation to feed farm animals are the main cause of the Amazon rain forest destruction, for example.

  3. Chris Tarry, 21/07/2023

    When “culturing plant cells” high doses of hormones are usually required. My guess would be that this is the same in meat. High levels of mutation (cancer) would be a likely result. These products are and should be labeled as GMO products, as should any organism with mRNA vaccination.

  4. Sheryl Nos, 04/07/2023

    Thank you for a very interesting and informed article explaining lab meat production. I can’ t wait to school my vegan friends on what I have learned!

  5. Lee, 28/06/2023

    Globalist trying to get rich, and kill off innocent people and kill unborn calfs, just as they promote abortion and kill innocent babies in the womb. God will soon strike down all these evil doers.

  6. Marianne miller, 25/05/2023

    For the lab meat to work it appears all the dots have to be connected. It has to be safe and cheaper, it has to be tasty, it has to save a lot of land, it has to save a lot of animals from being slaughtered and last the number of animals that may or may not be slaughtered to make this new meat better be extremely small.

  7. Mike smith’s, 26/12/2022

    More sick people, 50 years from now they’ll be reporting how awful this meat was for you and your health!

  8. David Williams, 21/11/2022

    There are lots of arguments against lab meats. I’ve just read that America has given the go ahead for it. I don’t want to see a countryside with super labs destroying nature and wildlife. Also, the likes of Alan Savory and the Savory Institute have shown that cattle and other hooved animals help store between 30-40% of carbon in the ground, without them we are heading for disaster on this planet. Also, animals will still be needed for the number of by-products that animals produce. I have never been given an answer by anyone as to where all of the above will come from. There is little knowledge out there as to how much of an animal goes into to by-products that we use. It saddens me that the likes of vegans can’t see that there is an eco system and resorting to such methods will make it crash.

  9. Kim, 19/11/2022

    Disgusting. I will never eat this. My family and I consume REAL meat. Even the thought of lab-grown meat makes me feel ill.

  10. MICHAEL P MCCAFFERY, 24/08/2021

    Can someone clue me where to find the reference for the animal testing on rats which lasted 28 days and had some odd results for the rats? Had it and lost it and need it on behalf of herds everywhere.

  11. Bart, 06/01/2021

    In a dire emergency I suppose this makes sense. However, what does this meat “eat” to grow? This all seems a little sketchy. I have taken advance bio and physo. and this does not sound like a sustainable project. Emergency, sure, long term, sounds extremely hazardous. Enough “facts” are not presented in nothing I have read about this. Looks like meat cloning.

  12. Craig, 03/12/2020

    Something that most neglect to mention is that this cultured tissue is not a real animal with its network of biochemicals, organs, metabolism, or microbiome and as such is not identical in micronutrients to the meat of a real animal. We already know that an animal’s diet, sun exposure and lifestyle affects the nutritional profile of its meat.
    This product consists of largely homogeneous cells grown in a media. It is more like eating a tumor. It will not be and cannot be nutritionally the same as a whole animal.
    The goal in raising food shouldn’t be to make it faker, but that seems to be the goal with labratory meat.

  13. Kylie, 27/10/2019

    I think it’s pretty extreme to slap on the label ‘dark’ for something that’s not remotely horrible (relative to how we currently deal with meat). It is interesting to hear this perspective though, it is something that isn’t mentioned on a lot of lab-meat info pieces. However, it seems that there are alternatives to the growth medium which could hopefully be properly dealt with as cultured meat technology progresses further.

    We’d argue that extracting blood serum from the body of unborn calves is pretty ‘dark,’ Kylie. However, developing a culture medium that does not use foetal calf blood is one of the holy grails of the cultured meat industry. Reports we’ve read suggest some progress is being made, but it’s still some way off, if it can be achieved at all. Editor

  14. Zach, 29/07/2019

    So we have the option of: killing cows for meat, or… killing cows, for meat? I don’t have an ethical objection to slaughtering animals, but why call this ‘the dark side’, when slaughtering is just standard practice for the meat industry? Seems like scaremongering.

    Besides the point, how many cows are killed to produce 1 cow’s-worth of lab grown meat? If lab grown meat can reduce pasture sizes and free more land for other use while producing the same quantity of meat, isn’t it a good option?

    I’m not suggesting this is possible yet, but it probably will be in the near future.

  15. David B., 06/04/2019

    Read the article. Informative. I saw a commercial about lab-grown chicken nuggets. In the commercial, the full grown chicken they used was still alive. Named “Ian.” But now I wonder if what they really did was kill Ian’s mother while he was still a chick and then they waited until he was full grown (takes about 5 months) to show him in the commercial. Thereby making it look like, “See, we took his cells and he’s still alive.”

  16. Craig Penfold, 22/03/2019

    So the “dark side” is that it’s expensive? Got it, nothing else other than the expense…

    We think you’ve missed the key point in this article, Craig. It is the fact that in order to produce the ‘culture medium’ used to grow the muscle cells in the laboratory, unborn calves must die, to produce foetal blood serum. That’s the ‘dark side’ referenced in the headline. Editor

  17. Guy Smith, 19/11/2018

    This is a form of population control.
    They are killing us.
    Wake up.
    We are being made sterile and eating Bio-Engineered meat.
    Wake up idiots.

  18. monica reynolds, 25/10/2018

    Finless Foods is planning to be serum free by the end of 2018 – companies are working diligently and this will be on store shelves – people are changing their minds on what to eat and they are becoming so aware of what is going on with these animals and birds raise for food ..we do not need any corpses to feed on and I say this as a 10 year vegan – and a senior – who had ill health and am now healed ..I take no meds and feel 30 years younger – animal ag will be a thing of the past and as major meat and dairy companies continue to invest in plant based foods this tells me all I need to know !

    Big difference between ‘planning’ and ‘implementation’, Monica. And in the meantime, advocates of cell-cultured meat protein continue to conveniently ignore the fact that it is produced using the blood extracted from the corpses of unborn calves. Hardly ethically acceptable. Editor

    • Irene, 12/11/2019

      I live in Toronto but since I have family in USA, I usually go to visit frequently. I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome that usually doesn’t bother me too much just 2 or 3 times per year. To my surprise since mid of 2019 I became ill very frequently when I eat out while in USA . That was explained when one of the restaurant owners explained to me that that meat was ‘biologic meat” different than regular meat and was not well tolerate by people with IBS.
      Now I wonder what good can be a good that can make people sick and the worst part is that the places where it is served not even bothered to earn people about it’s origin.
      Thanks God we don’t have in Canada

  19. monica vandenberg, 25/10/2018

    I think you should know that companies are working diligently to stop the use of this serum – Finless Foods is planning on being serum free by the end of 2018, so much is happening on a daily basis.

  20. Karen Smith, 14/09/2018

    As long as we have our God giving animals here to eat, I will have a good old Angus burger.🍔

  21. Ty Savoy, 14/02/2018

    Nice comments Dave Cortesi….. Imagine the money they’ll be making, the company that gets the non animal growth medium first. This is capitalism, finding a better way, and progressing..

    Or stay in the past. It’s a choice.

  22. Simon Beech, 14/02/2018

    MLA and Cattle Council need to be doing more to challenge some of the misinformation surrounding lab-grown meat. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  23. Paul D. Butler, 14/02/2018

    They are trying to develop an industry based on a extremely flawed premise……….that cattle are bad. I predict that few folks will be willing to compromise their health with lab junk.

  24. Dave Cortesi, 14/02/2018

    It is obvious to everybody in the cultured-meat startups that the use of fetal bovine serum as a growth medium is unsustainable either ethically or economically. It was perhaps tolerable for initial lab experiments, but every player in this new game has the concoction of a plant-based growth medium at the top of their research agenda. The first company to find a non-animal growth medium that can economically be produced at scale — and that can satisfy the FDA as safe — will be the winner to lead the new industry. None of them are there, and the media are correct to press them on this issue when they make rosy predictions.

    • Anna, 14/05/2023

      Case in point, I agree. They will have to develop a plant based source for harvesting before I would consider changing from a plant based diet for ethical and health reasons. I’m concerned about the potential cancer causing agents needed in the growing media to produce rapid developing cells.

  25. Alison Maynard, 13/02/2018

    I believe Richard Branson is one of these Billionaires that wants to create frankenstein meat, and stop cattle raising operations by 2030. If this is correct, why don’t we graziers all over the world send a message, and refuse to fly Virgin.

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