Scientists engineer fake meat

Scientists in the Netherlands successfully engineered pork-like meat in a lab recently, according to the Telegraph. No report on how it tastes yet, but it's possible that faux beef could be gracing our dinner tables within five years.


  1. “Vegetarian groups welcomed the news, saying there was ‘no ethical objection’ if meat was not a piece of a dead animal.”

    That’s all good and fine, but I’m having a scary mental forecast: sooner or later, some twisted fuck of a scientist is going to grow artificial pain nerves, for the explicit purpose of torturing the nerves ….

    1. “Vegetarian groups welcomed the news, saying there was ‘no ethical objection’ if meat was not a piece of a dead animal.”

      It should note that this was animal welfare groups, not generally Vegetarian groups. The Vegetarian Society (and most animal rights groups) are against this process, because it currently involves huge amounts of animal experimentation.

      And never take PETA’s word for anything, because not only do most omnivores think they’re nuts, but most vegans and those educated on animal rights do, too.

  2. Or more milely, the other way around, giant blobs of cow growing in vat tanks, with a PETA seal of approval “100% muscle cells, no nerves, no pain, no kill !”.

  3. They’re calling it “Soylent Green”. No word yet on the secret ingredient used to make this newly engineered food.

  4. From the article “The scientists extracted cells from the muscle of a live pig and then put them in a broth of other animal products.”

    Doesnt’t sound like a no kill solution to me. I’d rather eat the cow directly then have it pureed and fed to glop in a test-tube.

    Although, if we then make a broth from the stuff we grew then did the whole process again we could have a whole new meaning for three degrees of bacon.

  5. Some guy did this a year or two ago (chicken I think?) – cooked it up and ate it. The problem is the texture. Meat has its unique consistency because the animals move around and develop the muscle. You can’t replicate that in a tissue culture dish. So instead of steak, think beef-flavored tofu. Not what I want to sit down to at Mortons.

    1. Presumably, with the right mad-scientist arrangement of electrodes and things, you could get the hideous, insentient blobs of flesh to twitch and writhe horribly in their vats, thus developing the rich meaty texture.

    2. Meat has its unique consistency because the animals move around and develop the muscle. You can’t replicate that in a tissue culture dish.

      There’s an enormous market for ground meats right now. Ethical hamburger, chicken burger, pork sausages, and hot dogs, anyone? Not only does it remove the “suffering of animals” question entirely, but only growing the muscle tissue has the potential to be more resource-efficient than growing an entire animal.

      Making muscles contract is not exactly a mystery – the frog leg twitch experiment is OLD, and unlike a spine damage patient, vat-tissue doesn’t need to do anything complicated like WALKING, it just needs to flex against resistance to “exercise”.

      The last idea I heard was to start with culturing the tissue cells, grow them into sheets mounted on plastic scaffolding, and use basic electrical stimulation to get the muscles to flex. Resistance for muscle training would be provided by the elasticity of the plastic scaffolding. Mount a “twin” on the other side of the sheet, like the muscle pairs on animal joints, and they can flex back and forth exercising each other and ensuring the tissue grows in an organized fashion.

      And then you clip it off the scaffold, put it on a styrofoam tray, shrink wrap it, and send it to the supermarket.

      1. I posit that, once you add in custom scaffolding and frankenstein-like electronics, you are moving beyond the realm of cost effectiveness. The ultimate goal is to win over the general public, not a handful of PETA activists – and Joe Sixpack is not going to pay $8/lb for ethical meat.

  6. “why the hell would I want to eat fake meat?”

    If it’s more efficient and ecologically sustainable (low greenhouse emissions, less ground space needed, less corn and other grain used to feed it, can potentially be grown in cities to avoid long transportation, etc), it’s cheaper, and it avoids causing suffering to animals, why not?

    If the first company to try to mass market this is smart, they won’t kill the animal from which they take the initial biopsy to cultivate. They’ll treat the animal like a pet and make it their mascot. Enjoy delicious pork chops from Babe, while Babe is still happy and well cared for.

    The big problem now seems to be with the texture, and that could be solved. Even if at first it’s only suitable only for use as ground meat, if it’s 50 cents a lb and tastes OK, it could revolutionize cheap meat production.

  7. How anyone who has witnessed the gutting of a deer, or knows what goes on in a slaughterhouse, could decry vat grown meat as “gross” or weird boggles my mind.

    No central nervous system, no organs, no brain–not a hell of a lot of difference between this and growing plants. Bring it on–the sooner the better!

  8. I posit that, compared to the infrastructure needed to raise animals (even in horrible, factory farming conditions) some scaffolding and occasional low current electrical current, will be (ultimately) trivial.

    1. The cow provides a sterile environment at the correct temperature for cell growth. Those are both things that have to be artificially replicated at a large co$t to the consumer. Cells have to be fed, and cell culture medium is way more expensive than feed. Add in the additional costs of the meat NordicTrack machine, and I’m just not sold on it being a viable replacement.

  9. This is excellent news. I look forward to this product being commercially available.

    And while I don’t know the specifics of how they’re coaxing the cells into replicating, I don’t think this is truly comparable to GM foods (although I also think we should be embracing those). It’s really not that different than what happens naturally; it’s just much more specific and limited.

  10. This is great news. Once the consistency, taste and nutrients are “close enough” I’ll be willing to make the switch. As long as there aren’t ground up pieces of human or some other odd side effects.

    It does pose a question though: People who enjoy eating brains, liver, chicken feet, tripe, etc will have to move underground. A black market for delicacies! I wonder if 5-star restaurants will still advertise “free roaming” meat.

  11. i wonder, has anyone tried this with milk yet? “fake milk” ought to be easy in comparison – liquid, so texture is (mostly) a non-issue…

    also, eggs…

  12. Hey…fake meat is made out of something beside meat. Meat is meat! Now if it was potato grown to look and taste like a steak…then thats fake. This crap is still meat, one step away from the cow.

  13. I’m seeing a lot of bleating about genetically modified product and the dangers of playing about with those. Have any of you actually read the article? There no GM here, it’s cultured unmodified cells. No they’re not the same thing. No, they’re not similar. Not even a little bit. Really. As for the “huge amounts of animal experimentation” it appears to have involved a single, not particularly invasive biopsy. After that, no actual animals were involved. I’m absolutely against unethical treatment of animals, really truly, I am. I’m also absolutely against voicing an opinion that consists of reflexive sound bites rather than actual thought. Read, think, think some more, THEN comment people.

  14. As for the cost efficiency of the process, yes cell culture is CURRENTLY more expensive than feed, but if it were the case that they were mass producing vat-meat (or veat :D), then the production of cell culture would enter an economy of scale. Recall that cell culture is of the class of products that cannot be stored indefinitely and currently have a relatively small market. If it turns out to be a viable alternative, then I’m sure the cost can be brought down. The question is, will the cost be brought down.

    1. But then you get into the whole (excuse my metaphor) chicken and egg question – the costs of cell culture production can be brought down through economies of scale, but you first have to create the economy of scale…which can only be done by creating an affordable alternative to farm-raised meat…which can only be done through the cost savings produced by economies of scale…

      1. Yeah, but if the potential veat producers know that they can make money by selling veat, they will raise demand for cell culture. The free market takes care of the rest.

        I presume veat will will be expensive to begin with, like computers which started off at 4 – 7 grand a piece and are now available for as low as $200.

        1. I anticipated the counter point, and I think the problem with comparing veat to any electronics is that the initial high price of electronics could be justified because they were substantially better than the prior alternative (mp3 player versus CD versus tapes, for example). I have a hard time seeing how you could improve meat for the general population to the point where you could justify (initially) charging 3-5X more for it, outside of the small portion of the population that would eat meat if it weren’t for all that darn killing. Many vegetarians are not abstaining from meat for moral reasons.

  15. It’s sad: so many tasty species will now be relegated to specalist “free roaming” farms. Eventually, they will die out, preserved only as tasty tissue cultures.

  16. good point. Really, what it comes down to in light of your point is whether the corporations will invest in making the technology profitable or not. It is not unusual for corporations to take a significant short term loss in order to establish their product. What we may end up with is a product that costs 3-5X the price to produce, but still sells it at half the price. And the relevant farmers union will object heavily to this and eventually force a price floor on veat should this happen. I can’t see Joe Rancher being too pleased with the prospect of cheap meat replacing his rather expensive Angus Beef (I’m a college student. Everything except for really fatty chicken drumsticks in ten pound bags is really expensive to me).

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