“Petrie-Pork”: The Future for Meatatarians?

Rosana Escobar Brown

Test tube tacos, in-vitro veal parm, and beaker burgers—sounds like something more from a Jetson’s episode than from a leading science journal, but could it be for real?

Scientists have been developing lab-created meat for over a decade and now it seems as though this man-made meat might just become reality…someday.  PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) seems to think so also.  In 2008, PETA announced a “contest” on their website offering 1 million dollars in grant funds to the scientist who can create chicken meat that would be competitively cost effective on a grand scale and ready to market by 2012.  The funds have yet to be claimed and reader opinions regarding the PETA “contest” range from accepting, to skeptical, to belligerent.  Certain blogs on the topic fear the worst including unsafe food, and the source where cells are derived from.  One blog post even cries out that stem cells come from humans making the consumption of in-vitro meat akin to cannibalism.

Don’t fret just yet; the cells used to develop this man-made meat actually come from animals, not humans.  According to a recent article from Nature.com, a small biopsy is taken from the animal which is left unharmed; alternatively, embryonic stem cells would provide limitless supplies of meat but attempts at development have not been successful.

A research laboratory in Holland has shown the most successful progress in the field of meat-making and that is also where it is said that the only petrie-pork has been tasted on record.    

“[T]he only person who has swallowed a strip of the pale, limp muscle tissue is a Russian TV journalist who visited the lab this year to film its work. “He just took it with tweezers out of the culture dish and stuffed it in his mouth before I could say anything,” … “He said it was chewy and tasteless.” (Nature.com)  In a more recent article, the pork was described by Dutch scientists as having “the consistency and feel of a scallop.”

Apparently, petrie-pork remains a far cry from the real thing.  But the possibilities abound with the potential to inject Omega-3 fatty acids into meats to promote heart health and Chitosan to eliminate fat absorption.  Could the day arrive when we order our meat from a designer lab instead of a butcher, and tailor our selection to fit our personal health needs?  Only time will tell…and lots of it.

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