Imagine tucking into a plate of sausages, popping chicken nuggets into your mouth and dining on a steak—all with the approval of the most ardent vegan animal rights activists, environmentalists and health proponents. This may not be just wishful thinking, for meat-eaters or activists, because scientists at the University of Maryland have now announced that it is possible to grow huge quantities of meat in laboratories and market it to consumers.
This is truly science that will benefit everyone and I urge legislators, government agencies and officials to support it.
Here’s how it would happen: scientists extract muscle cells by taking biopsies from cattle, pigs, chickens, fish and other animals. From this tissue, they isolate the cells that are the precursors to muscles, and these would multiply in the laboratory to form the muscle tissue—or meat—that people eat. Researchers say it could be grown in sheets and when it’s ready, some could be sliced off for sale and consumption. U.S. and British researchers say it’s possible right now to produce hamburger, sausages, nuggets and Spam-like meat. Steak may take a little more work, but it probably won’t be long before that, too, would satisfy devotees of rib eye. It’s as natural, say the scientists, as wine-making, which also relies on cultures.
Think what this would mean for animals, people and our world. An end to the misery suffered by more than 10 billion animals, not even counting fish, who are killed for their flesh in the U.S. alone. No more castration without anesthetics. No more filthy, overcrowded sheds into which hogs and chickens are crammed. The day the last slaughterhouse closes down will be the happiest day of my life.
Can you envision an end to world hunger? The University of Maryland’s Jason Matheny, who co-authored a paper on the subject recently published in the journal Tissue Engineering, says that it should be possible to grow millions of pounds of protein from a single cell.
For the environment, the ramifications are far-reaching. In the U.S., the meat producers, who use more natural resources than any other industry, wreak havoc on water, air and soil. Lab cultured meat would mean no more greenhouse gases from cattle. The giant manure-filled lakes that ruin waterways and underground wells would dry up forever. Soil erosion from grazing cattle would be a thing of the past.
The only cause for concern may be the fact that too much animal fat is linked to a host of ailments, including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. But meat grown in the laboratory will not contain antibiotics or growth hormones, and there will be no threat from this meat of contracting Mad Cow disease, listeria, salmonella or other dangerous health problems. Perhaps, in the Brave New World, they can do away with much of the fat as well.
What a smashing way to eliminate many of the world’s worries over meat. PETA plonked some money down early in the game in an effort to push this technology forward. Perhaps you agree that we owe it to ourselves and the animals to get behind this new biotechnology right now.