Hey Vegans - How About Some Lab-Generated Meat?

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It might be safe to say that many of us would turn vegan in a heartbeat except for one small thing....a lot of animals just taste good. You know the joke - what does PETA stand for? People Eating Tasty Animals.

Well, what if you could enjoy a beautiful pork chop or a sizzling ribeye (grill marks and all), knowing that no animals were killed in the making of your dinner? How about if that meat was grown in a test tube, cultured and formed to look and taste exactly like meat?

If that sounds too sci-fi for you - sorry - because since 1981, laboratories have been experimenting with growing animal and human cells, usually under the name stem cell research.

In a recent NPR story, Michael Spector talks about his findings about growing meat. He says "There is something inherently creepy about growing meat, but there's also something creepy about the way we deal with the animals we eat. Billions of animals are treated like factory widgets. They're shot with hormones, live a horrible life and die horribly."

Spector also notes the environmental implications of factory farms. For years, we've been warned that the methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide emitted by animals and animal waste in factory farms is seriously polluting our environment.

There's also the issue of possibly helping to feed a growing population of humans that are starving to death around the world. 

The recipe for engineered meat? Put a few stem cells, say from a pig (for pork), put them in a nutrient broth of amino acids and sugars and after they start to grow, add some muscle cells and put the mass onto some plastic scaffolding. This grows and will turn into basically what we eat - a mass of animal muscle.

Muscle needs to be stimulated (or it turns to fat) so it's stimulated with electricity for now, though scientists are looking for better alternatives to "exercising" the muscle meat.

Before anyone gets all creeped out - scientists are now cloning human skin cells for burn victims, have cloned animals (remember Dolly the Sheep), and are working on cloning organs for transplants.

Right now, this meat is still in the experimentation phase, but there's a real possibility that we'll see lab-grown meat in the near future. If that happens, I know I'll be the first to eat a synthetic "kow-burger" (kow? like krab?) How about you?

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB

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