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Jun 23, 2012

Fake Meat - Two Different Visions, Both Aimed at Creating Products that Reduce Real Meat Consumption

Can Fake Meat Designers in Silicon Valley and the Netherlands Create Products that Get Real Meat Eaters to Consume Their Products?

Fake meat growing from satellite (stem) cells in a
laboratory.  Dr. Mark Post, meat-loving, amateur chef and professor at the
University of Maastricht in the Netherlands demonstrates
how he envisions meat will be grown in the future.
Photo: Francois Lenoir/Reuters  
Will new fake meat recipes convince consumers is a question posed by Michael Hanlon in The Guardian on 23 June 2012.  The question is very relevant to sustainable development because as more people around the world consumer greater quantities of meat, there is pressure to convert every greater quantities of land into cattle-producing pastures.  

Fake meat is the research subject of two different scientists.  One is Professor Patrick Brown, a tenured molecular biologist at Stanford University specializing in the genetics of cancer.  He is the founder of PLoS, an non-academic publisher. He is also a member of the National Academy.  As the founder of Sand Hill Foods, based south of San Francisco in Menlo Park, he has been working on synthesizing meat and dairy products for the past two years.  In his words, he has "zero interest in making a new food just for vegans ... I am making a food for people who are comfortable eating meat and who want to continue eating meat. I want to reduce the human footprint on this planet by 50%."

The other scientist working on fake meat is Dr. Mark Post.  He is an professor of vascular physiology at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.  Post is a self-proclaimed meat-loving amateur chef.  His approach is based on ten years of experience trying to grow animal tissue in a laboratory. This research was initially started under a project sponsored by NASA.  The principal investigator on the project was Morris Benjaminson, whose objective was to grow food that would feed astronauts on long space flights. After NASA dropped the project, it was taken over by Dutch researchers and funded with a €2m grant from the Dutch government. Today, another incentive to find a solution is a US$1 million reward being offered by PETA to produce a good tasting animal-free hamburger.

Post's research requires the slaughter of one initial animal to create the "starter" to grow more.  Muscle tissue is transferred to a petri dish where satellite cells (stem cells) are identified.  Several thousands of these are then placed in a "vat" with "synthetic broth" and grown into larger pieces of meat.  Currently, this technology is very expensive and time-consuming.  Harvesting enough meat for a hamburger costs an estimated £200,000 (US$330,000).  According to Post, these costs have be reduced with capital investments.  This is why he is working on a variety of public relations events to promote his research.

For more on how these two new products might upset a world order created by "meat hunger."  Or how "the global meat industry" might be adverse to change produced by fake meat see Michael Hanlon's article in The Guardian.

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About Margaret


CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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