Cheap meat might leave consumers with extra cash, but it has — largely — come at the expense of animal welfare. It also isn’t great for the planet, which the U.S. government recently noted.
But what if there were a way to produce meat that would avail us of the need to slaughter animals? What if we could continue to order hamburgers without also feeding the livestock industry as much as a third of the world’s grain production?
Professor Mark Post, who is part of the faculty at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and his team of researchers presented their first major discovery in the form of a five-ounce hamburger patty, which was created in a lab, but still was remarkably similar to ones sold on supermarket shelves.
Now, Post is working to overcome some of lab-grown meat’s biggest obstacles, including its price. And he believes it’s only a short matter of time before he succeeds.
What is “lab-grown meat,” anyway?
To understand how it’s possible to grow a hamburger that is made of actual animal tissue — rather than a protein substitute — you need to understand a bit about how muscle tissue works.
When muscle tissue is damaged, the body repairs the injured tissue by calling on a specific type of stem cell, called a myosatellite cell. Myosatellite cells can be taken from an animal without causing it harm. They also can reproduce fairly quickly. And they tend to form muscle fibers when they do.
These characteristics, it turns out, are very useful for someone trying to replicate the process by which muscle forms naturally.
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