Friday, April 3, 2009

Prime without the Rib

The In vitro Meat process

In Vitro Meat

The PETA organization (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has  announced that they are willing to offer a $1 Million dollar reward for the first scientist or group that can produce in vitro meat. The term in vitro generally refers to a scientific technique/procedure that takes place in a controlled environment outside of a living organism. Specifically, in vitro meat refers to actual animal meat, that has never been part of a living animal. Instead, stem cells are taken and grown in culture to become viable meat comparable to that of the real thing, real animal meat. As obviously this type of procedure would spare the lives of countless animals on a daily basis that are raised and slaughtered for feeding purposes, PETA sees great potential and promise with in vitro meat. 
The idea and first tests of in vitro meat were originated by NASA in attempt to find better methods of food production for astronauts for long trips into space. In regards to purity and health of in vitro meat, the issue can be looked from a number of different view points. With meat that can be genetically engineered, in vitro meat provides a meat that is free from growth hormones, and chemicals used in common agriculture practice. It is thought to be "cleaner" and less prone to disease than with real meat. Omega-6 fatty acids are common in real meat, however, in in vitro meat, the omega-6 fatty acids could be replaced with omega-3 fatty acids. This provides a much healthier alternative. To contrast this, it is still meat that is genetically engineered, and extremely new to scientific practice, thereby not yet proven as a replicated scientific procedure as of yet. It is common thought that when this procedure for making in vitro meat is finally reliable, it will become a much cheaper economical way of producing meat as it can all be done in lab, and money is not needed to allocate for the raising and feeding of animals for food production.
The embryonic stem cells used to start this process will be specialized cells from animal tissue, developed and grown in a growth mediums enriched with nutrients with use of a bioreactor (as shown by the picture above). 
In vitro meat will not taste, smell, look-like, or have the appearance of real meat, however, with as much work that is being done to make in vitro meat, the same amount of effort is being made to make the in vitro meat more similar, and one day hopefully unrecognizable to that of real meat. 
Statistically, with the world population growing rapidly, an increase in the need of meat is undoubtedly great. And with in vitro meat, this problem could theoretically be solved with a single cell. 
With promising prospects such as those just mentioned, a possible cure to the world's hunger problems at hand, and a cool $1 million dollars promised from PETA, it can be predicted that in vitro meat will soon be a reality in the very near future.


  1. " vitro meat provides a meat that is free from growth hormones, and chemicals used in common agriculture practice."

    I did a little research of my own on this issue and found that there is no legal use of growth hormones in raising pigs and poultry. As for the beef and dairy industry: 83% of all antibiotics (aka "chemicals") used in raising cattle is strictly limited to specific therapeutic use (infections from an incision, injury or mastitis)
    In the dairy industry, the only injectible hormone allowed to be present in milk is Oxytocin, which, if you recall anything from physiology, is a naturally occurring hormone that is released during the process of milk let-down. It is used only if I cow does not let-down her milk. A cow that withholds milk and skips a milking is subject to teat infection called mastitis and will need to be placed on antibiotics and could lead to a systemic infection and death; thus the use of oxytocin to prevent this type of illness is allowed.

    I would hardly call this type of use of chemicals and hormones "common." your claim is not factually supported and does not have a place in a scientific blog.

  2. The whole idea about making meats in vitro kind of freaks me out a little bit. Mostly because as stated above, "in vitro meat will not taste, smell, look-like, or have the appearance of real meat." Further, it states that there is much effort in trying to make the in vitro meat unrecognizable to real meat but my question would be what are they doing to change the in vitro meat. If they are adding chemicals, how is that much different then the growth hormones that are injected and would the chemicals be safe for us? Also, if they are changing it by other methods then chemicals then I would like to know how they are doing that. I feel that this aspect would have a big impact on what i believe about the in vitro meats and that more research needs to be done because i could not find much on it.

    Additionally, I would like to know what the cost difference is to making these in vitro meats. With the way the economy is I am not sure if this would be a great thing for it. If this method is expensive then I cant see how this would cure world hunger because in general someone could raise an animal or crop for very little money.

  3. Realistically I don't see how it can solve world hunger, but theoretically and possibly way down the road I could see it. If it becomes widespread, it will become cheaper and more available. In response to sweedish fish, I grew up on a farm and our cattle were vaccinated. I don't know much about dairy cattle, but I do know that we do not eat their meat, so I don't see how it is relevant.

    Also, I find myself somewhat repulsed by the idea of fake meat, yet I don't have any problems with other stem cell research and therapies. I don't find anything intrinsically wrong with it, however extrinsically I feel it is just weird.

  4. sweedishfish47 -

    With respect, I would like to address a few issues in your response to my post.

    Issue #1) I do believe my post has place in a scientific blog. I myself have never first hand lived on a farm or raised livestock, and I do not know the ins and outs of raising livestock for meat production. Likewise I cannot give a personal take on and the advantages/disadvantages of using growth hormones for this, but I can the read scientific literature. And parts of it regarding this matter are as follows:

    Hormones are either feed to livestock or injected into livestock. Growth promoting implants are time-release pellets of anabolic steroids (most commonly estrogen, but also progesterone and testosterone) that cause the animals to gain more weight in the form of lean mass. Almost all beef finished in feedlots in the United States are grown with these tiny pellets that are injected between the skin and cartilage of the ear that release added hormones into the animal. (Griekspoor, 2000)

    Some statistics suggest that 80% of all lot feed cattle are treated with growth hormones. This means that the vast majority of all of the beef in the United States supermarkets and restaurants has been grown with growth hormones. (Griekspoor, 2000)

    Growth Hormones have been implanted in livestock for the past 40 years. (Griekspoor, 2000)

    And issue #2) You're right, I probably don't remember much from physiology.

    Hope this clears things up for you. All my best.

    -Robert Haas