April 24, 2024

Saut?ed stem cells, anyone?

Cooking up a storm

Researchers in Europe and the US are testing the potential of adult stem cells not just for medicine but for food. According to the news magazine Der Spiegel, biotechnologists want to create giant bio- reactors which can manufacture edible meat, “potentially forever relegating mass-production chicken farms, veal calf production and pigsties to agriculture museums.” It might even be possible for consumers to grow their own liver pat? and meat balls, turkey sausage and salami.

The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs has given 2 million Euros to three universities to study the feasibility of the project, and the meat-processing industry has kicked in another 2.3 million Euros. At the moment, biotech meat is nearly inedible, as growing muscle cells in a laboratory in the right proportions with fat and connective issue, is still very difficult and unprofitable. However, scientists are working on ways to grow stem cells on edible scaffolding which could become something resembling processed meat.

Ethical concerns underlie the project. The patent for the Dutch research project says that “the product has the structure and flavour of lean meat, but without requiring animals to suffer and without involving religious and ethical concerns or causing environmental problems”.