Why meat may not be murder for vegetarians

According to US and British researchers, the technology already exists for processed meats like hamburgers and sausages, using cells taken from cow, chicken, pig, fish and other animals. The wide acceptance of meat substitutes such as "quorn", a cultured fungus, "shows that the time for cultured tissue is near", Brian Ford, a British biologist and the author of The Future of Food, told the Associated Press news agency.

Techniques for engineering muscle cells and other tissues were first developed for medical use. But some researchers are looking into growing edible muscle cells, according to Jason Matheny, a University of Maryland doctoral student and co-author of a paper on in-vitro meat techniques.

One possibility is growing muscle cells on large sheets or beads suspended in a growth medium. The sheet would have to be stretched, or the beads would have to be expandable, to stretch the cells and provide "exercise" for the cells to develop, he said. "If you didn't stretch them, you would be eating mush. It would be like pink-coloured Jello." Once the cells were large enough, they could be scraped off and packaged. If edible sheets and beads are used, the entire product could be eaten.

Science is still far from reproducing artificially an entire natural meat, such as a steak or a chicken breast. But "the technology is there to produce something like a processed meat, such as a chicken nugget," Mr Matheny said.

The problem with "growing" a steak, with its own intrinsic structure, is that blood vessels, fat and connective tissue would also have to be produced.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say they have taken a step towards solving that problem - thanks to work on creating replacement parts for human beings. The MIT team used a mix of cells to grow muscle tissue that had its own blood vessels. In this case, human tissue was implanted into mice and blood flowed into the engineered muscle.

Morris Benjaminson, a bio-engineer at Touro College, said fish muscle cells cultured at his laboratory for Nasa had passed a "sniff panel". Mr Benjaminson said his researchers cooked their laboratory-produced fish and "it looked and smelled like the fish you can buy in the supermarket". He added: "With a little bit of money and time we could produce probably something that resembles a fish fillet," Crab, shrimp or other shellfish also could be cultured.

But would consumers accept these new delicacies? Some researchers argue that artificial meats are products of biotechnology, ultimately little different from everyday foodstuffs like wine and cheese.

"You take something that's found in nature, and reproduce it in a controlled environment," Mr Matheny says.

America's powerful Food and Drug Administration would also surely have something to say on the subject. It has already barred from the market food products involving cloned animals until their safety has been thoroughly tested. Others point to the fate of genetically modified foods, disliked by the public in many countries. Without the right sort of promotional campaign, cultured meats could go the same way.

Jessica Levy, student, 20: 'I wouldn't eat this - it makes me feel ill just thinking about it'

By Sean Topham

A vegetarian for eight years, Jessica from East Finchley, London, is not keen on the idea of cultured tissue.

"I wouldn't eat it. It sounds unnatural. It makes me feel ill just thinking about it.

Even if I ate meat I wouldn't want to eat this. Eating something that started out as muscle cells that are then stretched into edible sheets doesn't sound very appealing. How are they going to ensure that it has all the necessary nutrients in it?

I've been vegetarian since I was 12 and I gave up meat because I'm concerned about animal welfare. I don't think it's right to kill animals for food. I understand the environmental benefits of producing meat in this way when you consider the volume of rainforest that is cleared for cattle ranching, but first I'd have to be convinced it was safe. Even then, I probably wouldn't eat it because however remote the connection is with animals, it's still there and I wouldn't be comfortable with it.

I don't buy the argument that vegetarians will choose to eat this believing it will make them healthier. There are plenty of natural ways to substitute meat in your diet such as pulses and tofu. I don't buy meat substitutes like Quorn, but I have eaten them. Given the choice I prefer a cheese omelette to a Quorn sausage. And I'd definitely prefer a cheese omelette to this cultured meat.

If it became a staple food and if it was deemed safe and people wanted to eat it then of course I wouldn't have a problem with that, but I think it unlikely that I would ever eat it. Is it reliable? That's the problem with genetically modified food. I imagine vegetarians who crave meat might be willing to try it. I think they'd be a bit suspicious.''

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager - Commercial Cable & Wire - UK

    £60,000 - £75,000: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the major Aer...

    ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    Day In a Page

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes