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06 June, 2008

Meat doesn't grow on trees... yet

Location: an undisclosed location in norway
Mood: meaty?

The other day, I was hiking with Darcy and Sharon. And it was a pretty long hike. And it was muddy, and we were tired. And on the way back down this 9 mile out-and-back hike, we started talking about silly things just to pass the time. And Darcy happens to be a vegetarian, so there was some discussion about meat, and I think the intent was to tease or at least amuse her. I came up with this topic that I thought it would be really cool if they could manufacture meat in a laboratory. For instance, if you could take a piece of chicken, and connect an artificial nutrient supply to it, along with some type of electrical muscle stimulation, and cause the meat to grow! You could keep making more meat, without even having an animal. And we were talking about this for awhile, and laughing, and joking. And then there were the ethical questions about whether or not a vegetarian could eat this meat-farm meat. And I was suggesting that there would be giant fields of "meat seed cultures" being innervated electrically and fed, to grow. There were issues around how often you would need to start over again with new "real meat" and about whether or not you could just keep serving yourself off the piece of meat, without "killing it", so that it would just keep providing you an unlimited supply - sort of like a plant!

We were incredibly amused with ourselves.

Then, 3 days later, I receive an email link from a friend (not Darcy or Sharon). Here is the link that I received:

http://www.invitromeat.org

I kid you not. This had absolutely nothing to do with the conversation that we had that weekend, and the person who sent me the link was unaware of the conversation. The fact that every good idea I ever have has already been considered by someone else pales in comparison to the sheer coincidence of us having talked about this just a few days earlier.

Of course, don't get too excited about the concept just yet. We won't be eating cow-free burgers any time soon. On their "Technology Primer" page, they have the following information:

"An environmentally friendly cultured meat technology rests on four basic premises: (1) the culturing of muscle progenitor cells from farm animals of choice that are able to proliferate at a high rate, (2) the application of a growth medium that does not contain animal products, (3) the efficient differentiation of the progenitor cells into muscle cells that contain all nutrients present in conventional meat, and (4) the organisation of the muscle cells into 3-dimensional muscle structures."


And my understanding of basic biology leads me to believe that, while this is not quite as far fetched as cold-fusion as an energy source, it is a tall order to successfully engineer this type of product. step (1) and (4) are probably feasible. But it maybe a lot harder to achieve steps (2) and (3).

1 comment:

  1. Inman Wheelright06 June, 2008 04:54

    You need to write a new verse to the classy hobo song from the Great Depression (the one that started in 1929, not 2008) entitled "The Big Rock Candy Mountain." The song is about how there is a land of paradise that the bums (homeless, but back then they were called hobos and bums) can go to where 'little streams of alkeehol come a'tricklin' down the rocks.' You could engineer a them park with various meat rides and meat exhibits and meat gardens (yes, I want to go to the spare rib garden -- they are, after all, SPARE ribs...). You could let hungry celebrities run amok in an orgy of binging (you would need a vomitorium for those wish a purge and then another go).

    That's really twisted. Sorry.

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