Vital Nature: Schmeat


Meet “schmeat.” Years of stem-cell research and culinary concoctions have made it possible. Lab grown meat, which researchers from around the world have been experimenting with for years, is expected to make its debut within weeks in London. This cultured meat, known as in vitro meat, is an engineered form of animal flesh that has never been an actual part of an animal, dubbing it cruelty free by some and detestably unnatural by others.

The starter cells for in vitro meat can be harvested from animals without inflicting any harm. Though there is still much more work to be done, the possibility for commercial production of this lab-grown meat could save billions of living animals every year, and could have financial, health, welfare and environmental advantages over conventional agriculture.The research has racked up almost a decade’s worth of trials and errors and has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But there is hope held high for the potential success of this schmeat endeavor. Isha Datar is amongst the supporters, and hopes that the product unveiling in London will spur funding for the development and expansion of in vitro meat production. Datar, the executive director of New Harvest, a non-profit organization whose mission is to raise awareness about alternatives to “very environmentally unfriendly” conventional meat, explained to The Current that a large proportion of agricultural land is dedicated to grow food for livestock rather than food for people. Livestock are also viable breeding grounds for diseases, whereas the controlled environment in which schmeat would be produced would be much less prone to such problems. Growing meat in a lab rather than letting livestock live on a farm could reduce energy expenditure by 40 percent, a whopping reduction.

So… How does it taste? Mark Post, a researcher and investor at the University of Maastricht, and his fellow Dutch colleagues have been developing a palatable lab-grown beef by growing bovine stem cells in a vat, turning them into tens of thousands of strips of muscle meet, and mincing and mixing the meat with similarly lab-grown fat cells to create, well, a burger. Post claimed to the New York Times that this burger tasted “reasonably good,” which is reasonably assuring considering it cost approximately $320,000 to make.

Fortunately, Post shares that the second lab-grown burger should cost a mere $257,000, with the price descending as production increases. Theoretically, it will be much cheaper to sustain petri dish dinners than grass-fed beef. There are many people who would not at all opt to buy this stuff, but for those who don’t condone animal eating, or for those who eat foods from places like McDonald’s, this option is very viable applicable and sustainable. Or perhaps we’ll just start seeing more vegans around.