Reality imitates comedy

I’m actually trying to get some work done today but a friend shared the Times Online article Scientists grow pork meat in a laboratory on Facebook, which immediately made me think of the Better Off Ted episode Heroes, which I happened to watch this weekend. If you have a chance, watch it. Funny stuff. This new article about cultured pork follows one about cultured beef from about a year ago. Does cultured meat have a future beyond sitcoms?

Anastasia Bodnar

Written by Anastasia Bodnar

Anastasia Bodnar serves as the Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc. She is a science communicator and multidisciplinary risk analyst with a career in federal service. She has a PhD in plant genetics and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University.

6 comments

  1. I haven’t seen this show before, pretty funny. The commercial at the beginning was the best part. I wonder if people think that this is how companies like the Big Biotech corporations actually function – complete with the boss as the embodiment of stereotypical unfeeling corporate mentality?
    Not to mention the scientist-as-social-doofus stereotype!

  2. Lab-grown meat – at least it’s a step in the right direction: away from animals, and with considerably lower energy input requirements. But we should be even more ambitious, for example by growing protein in mushrooms. This would be scale-neutral, from the small basement mushroom farm to larger operations. Waste biomass, such as straw, could be used as the growing medium, and subsequently turned into biochar, making the whole operation carbon negative.

  3. Funny show. I don’t think I’d ever heard of it before.
    I’d buy tissue culture meat if it was comparably priced (say 150% the price of the animal based stuff or less). I’ve had to make my peace with the animal cruelty issue, but I imagine it would be more resource efficient than feeding grain to cows, which seems important ethically when there are still people in the world not getting enough to eat. I imagine it’d also be safer, since tissue culture meat wouldn’t have a digestive system full of e. coli as a source of contamination at meat packing plants.
    Plus I’m a geek and tissue culture meat would be the cool new thing. Same reason I’ll pay more for weirdly colored vegetables.

  4. My PhD work was on muscle development. I grew these cells in culture that move from myoblasts to myotubes with a change in medium. They formed a really nice sheet of multi-nucleated muscle tubes. And I checked their cytoskeleton–they were real muscles. It was _very_ creepy when they would start to pulse, but I would love to look at them in the ‘scope then. Unfortunately they would also start pulling up from the substrate at that point and the culture was ruined.
    But I see no reason you couldn’t get that on the right substrate to support them. And I’d eat ’em.

  5. I can’t believe you guys haven’t ever seen Better Off Ted. Now you know and have to watch 🙂
    Mary – awesome! and gross… but awesome! What about medium though? I thought the cells had to be grown in fetal bovine serum, which isn’t exactly cheap or easy to mass produce.
    I don’t know if I’d eat them, as I don’t currently eat meat, but I think it has potential for reducing environmental footprint of meat. Also, what are you silly omnivores going to eat when we take longer and longer space voyages? This seems like the perfect option.

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