No Swine Fluke: Scientists Turn Stem Cells Into Pork
Condensed by Native Village
Netherlands: Call it pork in a Petri dish.
Dutch scientists have been using pig stem cells to grow pork in
a laboratory. While the texture isn't quite right, and
scientists have yet to taste it, the engineered meat could have
a large impact on our food supply.
"If we took the stem cells from one pig and multiplied it by a
factor of a million, we would need one million fewer pigs to get
the same amount of meat," said Mark Post from Maastricht University.
Maastricht is part of the In-vitro Meat Consortium,
a network of Dutch research institutions involved in the experiments.
Others countries have also tried to replicate meat.
In the U.S., NASA funded similar research with hopes that
astronauts could grow their own meat in space. But
after disappointing results, NASA decided the astronauts would
To make laboratory pork, pig stem cells are placed into a
nutrient-based soup that helps cells replicate.
So far, scientists have only created meat strips about 1 centimeter long.
It would take 30 days to make a small pork chop.
describes the meat's texture to scallops -- firm, but a little
squishy and moist. That's because the lab meat has only 80%
protein, while livestock meat is about 99%. The rest of the lab
meat is mostly water and nucleic acids.
Post said these strips could be used in sausages or hamburgers,
but the lower protein content means it probably
doesn't like pork.
Some experts warn that lab-made meats might be dangerous
for human health.
"With any new technology, there could be subtle impacts that
need to be monitored," said Emma Hockridge from Soil Association, Britain's leading organic organization.
Hockridge said it
will take time to prove the new technology doesn't harm humans. She
also said organic farming relies on crop and livestock rotation.
Taking animals out of the equation could damage the
Some experts doubt lab-produced meat could ever match the
taste of real meat.
"What meat tastes like depends not just on the genetics, but
what you feed the animals at particular times," said Peter
Ellis from King's College London. "Part of
our enjoyment of eating meat depends on the very complicated
muscle and fat structure...whether that can be replicated is
still a question."
Experts say that eating lab meat
instead of raising animals would do wonders for the
environment. It could lower greenhouse gas emissions by up
to 95%. Land and water use would also drop by about 95%. And,
while livestock eat huge amounts of traditional crops, lab meat
is nurtured with only a few nutrients like amino acids, fats and
"In theory, if all the meat was replaced by cultured meat, it
would be huge for the environment," said
Hanna Tuomisto from Oxford University. "One animal could produce
many thousands of kilograms of meat."
Tuomisto said the technology could increase the
world's meat supply and help fight global hunger.