Imagine biting into a burger only to find out the meat isn’t from a cow but was created in a lab. Cultured meat, which comes from animal cell cultures instead of directly from animals, will soon be introduced to the marketplace.
Researchers take a live animal’s adult muscle stem cells and place them in a nutrient-rich liquid. The cells multiply and grow around a scaffold, helping them grow into a desired shape. Experts say one cow tissue sample can produce enough meat for 80,000 big burgers.
Environmental groups, animal welfare advocates and consumers have been anxiously awaiting the release of this product. The cultured meat has both an environmental and ethical charm since it uses fewer natural resources, avoids animal slaughter and doesn’t include growth hormones.
Regulators are debating what to call the cell-cultured meat. Choices include clean meat and alt-meat, but the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is concerned that including the word meat will confuse consumers since, well, it isn’t actually real meat.
Public opinion on the lab-grown meat has been shown to vary widely. In a Michigan State University’ poll, researchers asked over 2,100 people how likely they would be to buy something that looks and tastes like meat. One-third said they would be open to the idea, but the rest would proceed with caution. The survey also found higher-income people, young people, college graduates and men were more likely to try the artificial meat.
Cultured meat should be hitting the shelves once researchers figure out how to make it affordable — and perhaps mimic the juiciness and flavor of a real burger.