Lab-Grown Meat Has Interesting Implications

Editor David Feder muses on the interesting implications inherent in the prospect of scientists creating meat in the lab.

By David Feder, Editor

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When I read the Newswire press release about a team of scientists at the University of Maryland working on growing meat in the lab on an industrial level (first published in Tissue Engineering, June 29) I was caught between fascination and revulsion. So I shared the news item with my friend Ben Rideout, a health care professional. His ever-ready wit returned the following:

"You are at a hip new restaurant and your waiter hands you the menu. Scanning it, you think, ‘Hmmm, what do I want tonight?' You decide you want meat. But not just any meat, you want . . . Petri Meat! And you want it in . . . a petri dish! Uh-oh. The price is $45.00. You decide on a smaller portion of this better-manufactured meat. Ah-hah! The Test Tube portion is only half the cost. Meanwhile, the waiter is trying to push the evening special, Beaker Beef. Decisions, decisions..."Ben's scenario is definitely disturbing, conjuring images of a James Whale (set designer for the 1931 film, Frankenstein) laboratory brimming with bubbling beakers of brothy brew. But as Ben points out, the end result of such scientific strides could be momentous. No dead cows, no using enough grain to feed hundreds for meat to feed dozens. No factory farms, no E. coli and no moral compunctions.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals states, "Meat is Murder." But where does meat manufactured from living animal cells fit in? "We consider this development a wonderful thing, especially for those who find it difficult to shake their meat addiction," says Ingrid Newkirk, PETA president. The organization is behind the research and even helped fund concurrent research by Vladimir Mironov at the Medical University of South Carolina. The concept has captured the curiosity of some religious leaders, too. "For someone opposed to killing an animal, eating such meat may be no more morally compromising than drinking milk from a happy cow," says Rabbi Yossi Jacobson of Des Moines, Iowa.

Who knows? Lab-grown steaks could become a case of non corpus delicti as opposed to corpus delicious.

In more mainstream ingredient news, a few weeks ago, in our sister e-publication, Wellness Foods Insider, I editorialized on the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) annual conference and food show in New Orleans ("Well Noted: Report from IFT"). It was a great conference this year, well-attended.

Especially enjoyed was Malcolm Gladwell's keynote address. Gladwell, New Yorker writer and author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink" has nothing to do with food or ingredients. At 120 lb. (wet), he looks as if he doesn't even partake of them. But Gladwell has applied his extraordinary insight to the question of how people think creatively and how, as a culture, we can nurture the act of creativity. For those of you who missed his address, read his books. You'll never again think about thinking in the same way.

You may also want to check out "IFT in Review" from the September issue of Food Processing. There you'll find our editors' picks of some of the top ingredients of the show. It's just a small sampling — there were hundreds of exciting foods to see and taste.

And mark my words: Resistant starches are slated to be the hot ingredient trend. The example from National Starch Food Innovation (www.foodinnovation.com), Hi-Maize 5-in-1 Fiber high-amylose maize starch gets my vote for best use in a recipe. The bread they used to showcase the product was nothing short of addictive.

Speaking of ingredients, on our last evening in the Big Easy, the Food Processing team held an informal debriefing of the show at New Orleans favorite Tommy's Cuisine (746 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-581-1103). The food was outstanding and the staff more than accommodating, especially to those of us with special dietary restrictions. But I want to send out special kudos to our waiter, Joey. What a guy!

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