The race for environmental friendly meat is on--according to Eater.com, the latest innovation in almost-cowless beef was spotted at a Medical University of South Carolina lab. Far from needing feed or land, the in-vitro meat is pretty comfortable surrounded by petri dishes. However, the lack of Wrangler-wearing cowboys doesn't mean Dr. Vladimir Minorov's experiment isn't meat. The meat, which Esquire's Marty Beckerman described as "creamy in color with a texture that falls somewhere between Jello-O and Spam," is crafted from embryonic turkey cells that are plunged in a "nutrient bath of bovine serum" (this is the cow part). The turkey/serum mix is then put on a "scaffold" of chitosan for support. For those worried that this may not be all natural: chitosan does occur in nature, but it's not clear if the stuff in the lab is manufactured or harvested.
Scientists are still working out the kinks. For example, they want to add a luscious "vascular system" to help the meat grow into a piece of prime steak; without the oxygenating add-on, they can only produce thin strips of muscle tissue. Fellow researcher Nicholas Genovese knows that meat and tech makes some uneasy, but says such worries are unfounded, since foods like yogurt and beer are cultured products, just like in-vitro meat.
Should experiments like Minorov's in South Carolina and those in Norway take off? And what, exactly, is in it for people who aren't trying to score PETA's $1 million prize?
- It's Like a Cow in Your Pocket Dr. Minorov tells Reuters' Harriet McLeod why this is a good thing: "If we have interplanetary exploration, people will need to produce food in space and you can't take a cow with you."
- Fake Meat Is Clean Meat "Animals require between 3 and 8 pounds of nutrient to make 1 pound of meat," fellow researcher Nicholas Genovese tells Reuters McLeod, "cultured meat doesn't have a digestive system" points out Nicholas Genovese.
- Design Your Own Meats "How do you want it to taste?" asks Minorov, "You want a little bit of fat, you want pork, you want lamb? We design exactly what you want. We can design texture," he tells McLeod.