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McLab Burgers Coming Soon? New Advances in Lab-Grown Meat Technology Say Yes

Posted: 09/15/11 10:36 AM ET

Written By Jill Ettinger

Eating meat grown in labs rather than from the carcass of a once living cow, pig or chicken is inching closer to reality every day as scientists have agreed to some key positions concerning issues surrounding cultured meat production.

Among some of the technological challenges, a panel of scientists recently concluded that a cell source has been secured, which could be grown into edible muscle-meat tissue without a living animal as a necessary component to a nutrient-rich food source. As well, the nutrients necessary for the in vitro growth, provided from sunlight and carbon dioxide, have also been identified as viable cofactors in lab-raising large-scale quantities of meat.

Animal rights organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have applauded -- and even offered to financially reward -- lab-grown meat as a means to reduce the egregious treatment commonplace in factory farms. More than ten billion animals in the U.S. live in unspeakable conditions, routinely exposed to illness, abuse and neglect, as well as to a number of antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically modified foods all linked to human health issues.

The progress also comes in the shadow of the second largest meat recall in history -- Cargill's more than 30 million pounds of tainted turkey that killed one person and left dozens more sick. Growing meat in a lab environment rather than in densely populated factory-farms where diseases spread rapidly (increasing the risk of foodborne pathogens such as e coli and salmonella) is another upside, earning more support for the technology.

Still, the science remains quite underfunded, despite the reliable technology and the benefits, including a decreased impact on the environment and resources. With livestock production currently using one third of all resources on the planet, widespread implementation of cultured meat could reduce that number significantly, according to Netherlands' Masstricht University professor Mark Post, who told FoodNavigator.com that, "The herds of livestock would diminish tremendously -- by a factor of one hundred thousand to a million."

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: m.mate