News

The darker side of lab-grown meat

Jon Condon, February 13, 2018

Comment:

 

 

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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Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. David B., April 6, 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.”

  4. Craig Penfold, March 22, 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

  5. Guy Smith, November 19, 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.

  6. monica reynolds, October 25, 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

    • 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

  7. monica vandenberg, October 25, 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.

  8. Karen Smith, September 14, 2018

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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