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Scientists are growing meat on blades of grass


blades of grass

A farmer holds paddy seedlings in Bekasi, Indonesia's West Java province July 1, 2011. Indonesia sees higher unmilled rice output in 2011 and a bigger surplus of the staple food as it expands production areas, government officials said on Friday.      REUTERS/Beawiharta (INDONESIA - Tags: BUSINESS AGRICULTURE) - GM1E7711DTA01
Field or food?
Image: REUTERS/Beawiharta
What if you could grow a burger in the same way you grow grass?
Sounds implausible? Scientists at the University of Bath are taking cells from pigs and cows and growing them on blades of grass, joining a host of other researchers and companies who are working on meat production in the lab. The cells are harvested by biopsy and fed a solution of glucose, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, which helps them develop into mature muscle cells.
Cultured meat, as it’s known, is indistinguishable from tissue from cows or pigs under a microscope. The researchers say it could be on supermarket shelves within five years.
Alternative ways of making protein are rising in popularity as the earth’s population grows and people in developing countries start to consume more meat. A World Economic Forum White Paper on the future of protein said demand for meat will double in the 50 years to 2050 and called producing enough a “significant challenge.” As well as cultured meat, other alternatives include insect-based and algae-based substitutes.
 Soaring demand
Soaring demand
Image: Journal of Science report
“Alternative proteins represent a rapidly emerging new domain within the food system,” H Charles J Godfray, Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, wrote in the White Paper. “Alternative proteins that can act as substitutes for traditional animal‑based food are attracting considerable financial investment, research attention and interest in the media as a pathway to meeting the nutritional needs and food demands of a predicted mid‑century population of 10 billion, in a healthy and sustainable manner.”
The report highlights the positives of meat alternatives, including boosting food security and animal welfare, as well as reducing the risk of food poisoning and cutting down the environmental impact of producing protein. Even so, it - and other research - acknowledges there are technical, socio-political and regulatory challenges to overcome before widespread adoption.
Several companies are already working on alternatives to the traditional burger. Dutch food technology company, Mosa Meat, is aiming to bring lab-grown meat to market by 2021. It says it wants to help satisfy soaring demand with products that are healthier, better for the environment and kinder to animals.
Another company, Impossible Foods, will introduce a plant-based burger to US grocery stores later this year. The “meat”, already available in restaurants, comes from a plant molecule, which the company says has a fraction of the environmental impact of cow meat, using less land, less water and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 87%.

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