Petri-Dish Pork: The Other, Other White Meat

You gotta be kidding.

You gotta be kidding.

A Dutch physiologist has become the first scientist to produce test-tube meat.

Writing in the Times of London earlier this week, Lois Rogers reported that Mark Post of Eindhoven University in Holland extracted cells from the muscles of a pig and subsequently got them to multiply and grow in a “broth” made out of blood from animal fetuses. (Eventually, he intends to replace the broth with a synthetic solution.)

Post told the paper that his technique might lead to laboratory-raised sausages and other processed meats within five years. “You could take the meat from one animal and create the volume of meat previously provided by a million animals,” he said.

He does, however, have more work to do before there’s petri-dish bacon in every frying pan. Although Post has yet to taste his meat, he said its texture was “rather like wasted muscle tissue.” Other adjectives used to describe the material included “soggy” and “sticky.”

“We need to find ways of improving it by training it and stretching it, but we will get there,” Post said. “This product will be good for the environment and will reduce animal suffering. If it feels and tastes like meat, people will buy it.”

With all due respect, I would advise Post not to be in such a rush. Given the taste and texture of the last supermarket pork chop to pass my lips, I get the feeling that factory hog farmers are working as fast as they can to endow mass-produced pork with the very traits Prof. Post wants to remove.

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  1. Mitzi says:

    As a grad student growing animal cells in culture, I can tell you any hopes for environmental benefit from this meat are pretty laughable. We use some form of bovine serum for every cell line we grow. The stuff is bacterial or fungal heaven if it gets contaminated, so we dose the cells with antibiotics and antifungal agents. We use a lot of disposable plasticware made from petroleum products and shipped from many miles away. All materials used qualify as biohazardous waste, so the disposables save a lot of time. If we use glass or steel items, they have to be cleaned and autoclaved, which requires a lot of energy. The incubators, freezers, and culture hoods also burn lots of electricity and natural gas. I’d really much rather eat a pastured pig any day of the week (saving up for the extra expense by eating lots of rice and beans), and I think most people who have actually grown cells would agree. The “carbon footprint” is probably smaller for the live animal. And I just read an interesting paper (BMC Biology 2009: 7,79-an open access journal) in which the authors found that pigs reared outdoors had healthier gut flora than pigs reared indoors in “hygienic” environments. I’ll stick to the real thing.

  2. Colin Rule says:

    It’s true the science isn’t there yet — but as was recently noted on the Colbert Report, in-vitro meat is the inescapable future of humanity:

    For the latest, visit New Harvest: — they’re a good hub for the latest developments in the field.

  3. Ragamuffin says:

    Mitzi — I wrote a post on this the other day as well. How nice to have the insider’s thoughts on the biochemical drawbacks of this cultured meat (I am also a lab rat, but not in microbiology). I’m in complete agreement with your sentiments about indulging in _real_ meat.

  4. Brendan says:

    Can we request for them to try petri-bluefin tuna?

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