Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Synthetic meat for saving the planet?

On April 21st 2008, PETA have announced a one-million dollar reward for the first group to successfully produce synthetic meat that is comparable to and commercial viable against naturally sourced meat products. Vegetarianism is a way of life for me but most of my friends eat meat—each to his own, I guess. I watch with interest animal rights groups creating public awareness about issues concerning animals—vegetarianism for everybody is obviously not a possible solution but people can try and address the negative environmental consequences of traditional meat production, such as nitrate contamination and methane production. People should also act upon the fact that production of a kilogram of meat depletes so much resources—much more than the resources need for producing a similar quantity of vegetarian food items
In this context, synthetic meat seems a viable concept. “In vitro meat, also known as laboratory-grown meat, is animal flesh that has never been part of a complete, living animal. A matrix of collagen is seeded with muscle cells, which are then bathed in a nutritious solution and induced to divide”. There are arguments for and against use of synthetic meat. Animal suffering and death is reduced in the case of synthetic meat and researchers argue that there is better use of resources as nutrition is directly given to the meat culture eliminating the waste cycle involved in animal farming. “Each transfer of energy from one living being to another is inefficient; only a small fraction of the available energy is carried over. With in vitro grown flesh, it is possible to greatly increase the variety of flesh available on the market, since the energy is supplied directly via a "perfusion system", In vitro meat may be cleaner and less prone to disease than animals, provided that donor cells are not contaminated. With relatively simple isolation procedures, economically damaging culls could also be avoided. The in vitro meat would also be free from the growth hormones and antibiotics that are fed to many animals in intensive factory farming. The fat content of meats could be brought more fully under our control, and other chemical constituents could be altered to produce the best nutrient balance, meat could be made a healthier product than at present. There is also the benefit that there are no bones involved in this form of production, which are often removed from real meat for convenience. This also reduces the risk of choking” ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_vitro_meat)
We have all heard of the ‘mad cow disease’ which is the result of man’s interfering with nature –an experiment gone awry!! Making herbivorous cows feed on sheep entails has led to some unfavorable results but with proper controls in place, organic meat seems to be a good idea! I’ve heard about genetically modified food but have been a little wary of trying such stuff out. On the other hand, organic food has always interested me and I’m all for food grown with natural inputs and without harmful pesticides. I have always associated the term organic food with grains/vegetables/fruits—in short the vegetarian foodstuff. Organic meat seems to be the way to go!!

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