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The darker side of lab-grown meat

by Jon Condon, 13 February 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.





Reader's Comments

  • Alison Maynard February 13, 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.

  • Dave Cortesi February 14, 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.

  • Paul D. Butler February 14, 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.

  • Simon Beech February 14, 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.

  • Ty Savoy February 14, 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.

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