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Bacon... or science project?

Posted Jan 29 2010 12:00am
I’m conflicted about the news that scientists have managed to grow pork in a petri dish, using pig stem cells.

My first reaction was a lot like the one you’re probably having right now: Eewww. Especially when I read this description of the lab-created meat: “sort of like a scallop, firm but a little squishy and moist.”

I’ll pass, thanks.

I already avoid genetically modified foods, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s less out of conclusive proof that they’re dangerous, and more from a gut feeling that it’s not very smart to tinker with the molecular structure of foods that took many millennia to evolve, and that humans evolved to metabolize.

So I don’t intend to go anywhere near laboratory-engineered meat. In any case, it won’t be commercially available for a few years. So far, scientists have only been able to grow a strip of pork about a half an inch long, and for some reason its protein content is lower than that of conventional meat.

On the other hand: maybe Franken-franks aren’t the worst idea biochemists have ever come up with.

Lab-engineered meat would dramatically reduce the environmental impact of food production, especially as worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Not only would lab-grown meat decrease land and water use, but according to some estimates, it would lower greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95 percent.

Once production is up and running, researchers speculate the cost would be lower than that of producing conventional meat.

And think of all the creatures that would no longer be subjected to lives of suffering.

No, I’m still not going to eat the stuff. You don’t have to, either. Researchers predict that lab-grown meat, due to its lower quality, will be used mainly for fast-food burgers and other processed foods. People who regularly consume these products tend not to be overly concerned about where their food comes from, anyway.

Pork from a petri dish would probably sit just fine with them.
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