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Friday, 23 November 2012

It's a bit of an animal


I was watching Dara O'Brian's Science Club on television the other night where they covered the topic of lab-grown meat. This is not news to me as it is a subject that had been circulating in the press a few months previously, however it is still a hot topic.

We are now living in age where the consumption of meat has become so huge, to an extent where it is suggested that the demand is putting an immense strain on our planet.



As much as enjoy a good piece of meat, I am not someone who feels the need to eat it everyday but those that do and believe a meal is not complete without it are being encouraged to adopt at least one meat-free day each week.

Back to the subject of the laboratory, it requires just one small biopsy taken from a live cow. The cow remains unharmed and carries on with its life as usual while its cells in the lab are mixed with various growth cultures and with some scientific manipulation, muscle fibres grow.

It is indeed very clever science, something I marvel at, but I can't help but think that this is perhaps not the route to take to solve the world's meat production issues.
For starters, the lab meat is not like meat as we know it. The scientists demonstrating on the TV programme said it would be used to make hamburgers, so it looks like it is a long way off from being used to construct a nice juicy steak.

A small piece was even cooked after it had been seasoned with salt. The scientists sliced into the anaemic little piece of stuff and gave their verdict. What did it taste like? Chicken apparently. So to emulate the flavours of a hamburger I think it would require a fair amount of additional ingredients and additives to even resemble anything like beef. Already this lab meat is on its way to becoming a heavily processed foodstuff, something I'm not keen on.

No doubt this type of science is a spin off from growing human organs in a lab, which I can see has a valid application, but there must be other experiments and studies into solving the world’s food crises that warrant the time and money spent.

At this stage although growing meat in a lab – from the scientists point of view – has been largely successful, it has taken them years to get as far as they have and by their own admission they couldn't even produce enough yet to meet demand. In addition the current process takes so much energy it is hardly sustainable so perhaps we're still better off rearing real animals in the traditional way.

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