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http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/test-tube-burger-lab-culture/

I think this article is relevant to the discussion we have today about meat production. Just past August, a Netherlander scientist introduced the first lab burger. This is a new concept of growing beef, where a small amount of beef muscle cells are extracted from the cow and is cultured to grow into strains of muscle tissues and when you put thousands of these tissue strains together, it forms a patty burger. I know the idea of producing meat is the lab doesn’t sound very trustworthy but it actually has a lot of benefits.

Health-wise, lab beef might be healthier because of the lack of fat. Normal beef contains both fat cells and muscle cells but the scientist removed fat cells and grow only muscle cells so if anyone’s worried about consuming too much fat while eating beef, they have the option of having fatless beef.

In terms of efficiency, lab beef is also takes less time to be produced than normal beef. The scientist claims that it only takes him 3 months to “grow” the beef whereas normal beef takes about 2 years to be raised properly.

Also, the biggest benefit of lab beef, in my opinion, is the environmental benefits. Overall, I think it would overcome all of the problems that McWilliams addressed in the book. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to raised some cow because you need their muscle cells. However, since cells differentiate on their own, you only need a really small amount of cells to produce beef. Since you don’t need a lot of cows, you don’t have a lot of lands to raise these cows as well as to produce crops for cows to consume. Also, less nitrogen and methane gas will be released to their environment as well.

Although a lot of research still needed to be done and we probably won’t have this lab burger in the market for another 20-30 years, I still think this is a very effective way “growing” beef because honestly, I was quite upset when McWilliams wrote that we should cut meat consumption out of our diet. The taste might not be exactly the same but I think that’s a much more proactive way of consuming meat than just cutting it out of the equation completely.

However, I’m curious to know what do you guys think about this idea of lab burger?

7 Responses to “How Far Has Science Gone?”

  1. glhayes says:

    I believe that the idea of a lab burger seems indeed more efficient and may be a tad bit more healthy sensing that fat is not a part of the burger at all. But since this invention is still in the research phase I may or may not be a bad idea. Since we do not know the future effects it would have on the human I can’t say for sure if it would be a marketable product, but time will give the answer to that. I also interested in the process of actually extracting muscle cells from the cow and proceeding to grow beef in a lab environment, it seems kind of skeptical and frankly weird. But at this point I think anything is worth trying. If new ways of producing food are deemed healthy then I would rather have that as an option than completing eliminating all forms of meat from my diet.

  2. melzakin says:

    I think that the idea of a lab burger sounds like an excellent one. As was stated above, this would certainly answer many of the concerns that McWilliams brought up. For example, we would not have to worry about animals taking up valuable farmland that could be used to grow plants, nor would there be ethical concerns related to the treatment of farmed animals. According to this article that I found – http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/lab-grown-beef-taste-test-almost-like-a-burger/2013/08/05/921a5996-fdf4-11e2-96a8-d3b921c0924a_story.html – we can modify the lab meat so that it contain less saturated fat and more omega-3′s. It also takes a significantly less amount of time to produce, thus increasing efficiency.

    While I think that this sounds like promising research, the “yuck factor” described im the article is a serious concern. If people are having difficulty accepting the reality of GMO’s, how are they going to bring themselves to eat meat that is grown in a lab? I think that excellent marketing will be needed to get this product to sell in the future.

  3. llituchy says:

    While the efficiency and environmentally friendly factors of lab grown beef are definitely benefits to be seriously considered, I don’t think this product would be successful on the market. I agree with melzakin’s point that if people are so concerned about eating GMOs, how will they accept eating lab grown beef? Although the power of marketing is very strong, I don’t think it will be able to change the minds of those people who fear GMOs. I think this is because the core of this issue is fear of the unknown. With many different products, ranging from new vaccines to new technology, people fear newness because the future long-term effects of these products are unknown until sometimes it’s too late. I do think lab grown beef could be a viable solution to the meat industry’s inefficiency and environmental problems, but I don’t think this idea would be accepted on a large enough scale to make a significant difference.

  4. Julia Liss says:

    I also agree that this product seems like a great idea in terms of the environmental and sustainability benefits you mentioned. It sounds like a perfect solution if scientists can find a way to ensure its safety and mass produce it. I also think that at the present time, it will definitely not be successful in the market because of all the uncertainty around it and the fact that it just seems weird and will gross most people out. However, if we go 30 or more years into the future and find that we can no longer sustain the lifestyle and agriculture that we now have, and the only way to feed the world is through GMOs, cloning, and other seemingly unnatural methods, people will learn to get over their current doubts and eat what is available. Personally, I enjoy meat too much to give it up for the sake of the environment. And if, in the future, the only way to eat meat at all was to eat meat that was created in a lab, I would probably at least give it a try.

  5. ateodore says:

    This lab burger does seem to tackle the issues of green house gas emissions, land use, time, feed concerns, and even the issue of killing animals. Since this is just muscle cells they are not connected to a brain that can register pain. Though this technology seems to be too good to be true it still needs to be tested to see if these cells will interact in some way with our digestive tract or something else. In my opinion, it seems to show promise in becoming an efficient source of protein that could feed people who want to eat it. This technology should also be presented to the public in a straight forward way that will educate people about it without engendering the fear GM foods face today.

  6. annakai says:

    Yes, I agree that the scientists creating this lab burger have all the right intentions. By using cow cells to ‘grow” the patty, they are addressing many of the environmental concerns brought about by modern meat production. Like they stated in the article, the lab burger would reduce methane production (a factor in climate change), and it seems that you could also make more burgers per cow in a more humane and energy efficient way. Also, the lab burger has much appeal to all the health conscious eaters out there because it does not contain any fat. What about protein though? I am curious as to what the true nutritional value of one of these lab burgers is. Also, I wonder about the taste. Granted, they have a couple of decades to perfect and fine tune this recipe, but I know a lot of die hard meat-eaters out there who aren’t going to want to eat a half-assed burger grown from a petri dish, even if it means giving the environment a helping hand. Personally though, I would definitely be willing to give this burger a try, I love veggie burgers and quinoa burgers and since taking this class I have become increasingly conscious of my food choices, so why not! The science behind it is fascinating, and I look forward to see if it becomes a success on the market.

  7. McKBail says:

    While the notion seems desirable for this day and age, I also doubt that it would do well commercially. I feel that this could be seen as another example of “Frankenfoods” as McWilliams was discussing in his book.

    Yes, we live in a world where everyone seems to be focused on fat intake and low calorie foods. At the same time, there is a stigma towards science’s involvement in food production. So much of the ingredients in our food are engineered into new ingredients, especially corn. However, I feel that with everyone’s reaction to GMOs that it would at least take people a very long time to accept meat “grown” in a lab.

    Maybe if there was a stronger focus on the environmental and health benefits, people would be more open to “lab burgers,” maybe even GMOs.

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