But biotechnology could be on the cusp of solving one fight that has created tension between vegetarians and meat eaters. It could be possible to grow any type of meat, custom tailored, full of vitamins and low in fat without killing one single animal!
Scientists are already busy in labs all around the world trying to take cells from the skin of many different types of animals, and to grow these cells into meat. The key is to replicate muscle tissue and to organize it into a dense muscular steak that everyone is familiar with.
Scientists at privately held Tissue Genesis Inc. are working on creating the structural relationship between muscle cells, tendons, and ligaments. The application is so far intended for treatment in human subjects but the methodology could be applied to creating edible meat.
Researchers at the Touro College School of Health Sciences in New York, lead by Morris Benjamin, are attempting to use tissue samples from fish complete with blood vessels to culture them. The blood flow can aid in growing even thin samples.
The most interesting research is being conducted by Henk Haagsman at the University of Utrecht in Netherlands, whose team is trying to produce minced pork meat from cultured stem cells. If successful, all one could theoretically need is a limited number of pigs to mass produce hamburgers, hot dogs, and sausages. The study is financially backed by, not surprisingly, large sausage company Stegeman.
Smithfield Foods Corp (NYSE:SFD) a large food company, has a technical and working relationship with small biotech firm Viagen. According to Viagen’s website, the company provides its services in reproductive technology for Smithfield to “further establish its mark of superior quality”. While the exact relationship is not clear, Viagen is involved in the cloning of animals, including cattle. Viagen licenses the cloning technology from Geron Corp (NASDAQ:GERN), the company with the largest portfolio of intellectual property in the world related to stem cell and cloning research.
While other firms are involved in the cloning of animals, it is not clear how many are attempting to mass produce cloned meat without cloning the whole animal.
Cyagra, a recent spin-off of Advanced Cell Technology (ACTC.OB), is in the business of cloning livestock and preserving cells of near extinct animals, much like Lazaron BioTechnologies. Both companies have not stated whether they intend on pursuing the cloning of meat rather than whole animals.
No matter who finally hits the jackpot, many will profit. Meat eaters will find the new steaks to be full of vitamins and low in fat, as it could be possible to tailor the cloned meat to specific needs. They can also try the meat of near extinct animals, or animals not usually found on the menu. How about an elephant steak or a white tiger burger?
Vegetarians can try a turkey burger without feeling guilty, and PETA can rejoice. Big meat producers can smile with the potential of many new meat eaters to increase their bottom line.
While they might have to be bothered with the occasional slight brush of their skin or mucous glands, the biggest gainers from this exciting research will have to be none other than the animals themselves.