In vitro meat

From Academic Kids

In vitro meat, also known as laboratory-grown meat, is animal flesh that has never been part of a complete, living animal. As of May 2003, some scientists are experimentally growing in vitro meat in laboratories, but no meat has been produced yet for public consumption. Potentially, any animal could be a source of cells for in vitro meat, even humans.



In vitro meat should not be confused with imitation meat, which can be a vegetarian food product produced from vegetable protein, usually from soy or gluten. The terms synthetic meat and artificial meat are ambiguous, as they may refer to either.

Process and patent

In 2001, dermatologist Wiete Westerhof from the University of Amsterdam and businessmen Willem van Eelen and Willem van Kooten announced that they had filed for a worldwide patent on a process to produce in vitro meat (patent number WO9931222). A matrix of collagen is seeded with muscle cells, which are then bathed in a nutritious solution and induced to divide.

Arguments in favor

Reduced animal suffering

In vitro meat may appeal to animal welfare advocates and others concerned about animal well-being. Replacing traditional meat with in vitro meat has the potential to reduce overall animal suffering; however it does not eliminate it. See also: "Animals are still used" argument, below.


In vitro meat may be cleaner and less prone to disease than animals, provided that donor cells are not contaminated. The in vitro meat would also be exempt from the growth hormones and antibiotics that are used on animals to, respectively, make them grow bigger and fight off the various infections that come from putting so many animals in close quarters for extended periods of time.


The negative environmental consequences of traditional meat production, such as nitrate contamination and methane production, are reduced. While there will be some byproducts in the process of creating the nutrients to grow the cells, the environmental demand should still be lessened.

Space food

On long space voyages or stays, in vitro meat could be grown alongside hydroponic vegetables.

Arguments against

Animals are still used

Animals are still used as tools in multiple steps. For example, cell and tissue culture almost always use calf or fetal calf serum (or other animal sources, such as pituitary extracts) to provide the growth factors the cells need to signal them to divide.

Artificial environment

At least initially, many people will likely prefer meat grown in a natural rather than an artificial environment. Luddites and some environmentalists may not want any scientific or technological interference with nature, especially interference with food. On the other hand, many opponents may prefer the consumption of in vitro meat to the slaughter of live animals, and it can be argued that the current industrial meat production infrastructure is not "natural" either and puts a bigger strain on the planet than growing meat cells artificially would.

Quality, safety and health

People may be concerned that in vitro meat is of lesser quality than traditional meat, and that there are unresolved health risks. However, like any food product, in vitro meat would be required to pass through many safety and health trials before it could be sold.

Differences from traditionally produced meat

If in vitro meat is different in appearance, taste, smell, texture and other factors, this may reduce its appeal. On the other hand, the absence of fat and bone may also be an advantage. Many food items, such as surimi, designed to substitute for other ingredients (for reasons from morality to expense) have become independently sought out for their own properties.

Economic impact

It is not yet known whether in vitro meat is economically competitive with traditional meat. For in vitro meat, costs only apply to the meat production, whereas for traditional meat, costs include animal raising and environmental protection. The currently required laboratory setting for in vitro meat is very expensive, however.


See also

External links


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