It sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, but a researcher in the Netherlands says it could be a reality soon. Chairman of physiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, Mark Post, is currently conducting a $330,000 project to grow meat tissue from bovine stem cells as an alternative to farm-bred livestock.
Would you eat this mystery meat?
The project, sponsored by an anonymous investor, is working to provide an alternative to traditional livestock production, which biochemist Patrick Brown of Stanford University School of Medicine, who’s working on a similar project, says is “by far the biggest ongoing environmental catastrophe.” Additionally, the lab-grown meat substitute will be less damaging to human health.
By 2050, the worldwide demand for meat will increase 60 percent. Because factory farms use massive amounts of energy and land while packing animals in tight quarters, there’s also an increased danger of outbreaks of food-borne illness (such as E. coli). Post’s mystery meat may sound unappealing at first, but its benefit of requiring 40 percent less energy has environmentalists talking.
While the project is still in laboratory phases, Post plans to have the first burger ready in October, which begs the question: Would you eat it? There’s no question that there are potential health benefits. Red meat is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and high cholesterol. Its lab-grown counterpart could be genetically engineered to reduce those risks. But red meat is also rich in vitamin B12 and carnitine, which is good for your heart and cellular metabolism.
Another potential drawback is the fat in red meat is what gives it the flavor carnivores crave, which causes one to wonder how its counterpart would taste. There’s also another potential problem. According to Dr. Fred Vagnini, medical director for the Heart, Diabetes & Weight Loss Centers of New York, “A downside could be that because it’s genetically engineered, there could be changes in the protein DNA that could make it carcinogenic.”
Because of the environmental factors and the increasing demand to feed the world, it’s clear we’ll eventually require an alternative. What’s not clear is whether this artificial beef is a better solution than simply making smarter choices by opting for tofu or other vegetable-based proteins.
Would you eat this mystery meat? Let us know in the comments.