August 12, 2020

Will we eat synthetic meat created in a laboratory in the future? – The province

The ecological impact of themeat overproductionIt is a fact that cannot be denied. It is an industry that consumes most of the water we have, with the consequent environmental problems that this causes. The livestock industry takes a good part of the fresh water on the planet. To get a kilo of vealabout 100,000 liters of water are needed.This is estimated by Professor David Pimentel, from the Department of Ecology at Cornell University (New York), with a risky figure, as opposed to more conservative ones that speak of about 3,700 liters of water.

Given this dance of figures, there are other incontestable facts, such as the industrial production of livestockproduces contamination in certain underground soil layers, as well as in rivers and other surface waters. This is due to the use of hormones and antibiotics for cattle. In addition, this industry is one of the main causes of deforestation and CO2 emissions. All this forces us to look for an alternative solution and that is when synthetic meat comes into play.

The origin of synthetic meat

To look for the origin of this synthetic meat you have todating back to 2013, when the first burger created in a totally artificial way was cooked and tasted in a London restaurant. It was the result of the experiment conducted by Mark Prost, a scientist at theMaastricht University(Netherlands) who for years studied the possibility of creating synthetic meat.

He achieved this through the laboratory culture of stem cells extracted from animal tissue (cattle) by means of a simple biopsy. The process lasted about 3 months, during which cells from animal muscle feed through natural nutrients and grow 'in vitro',Without the intervention of chemical products.

The passage of time allows them to strengthen and create a new muscle tissue that is achieved by stretching the cells, which are between two velcro supports. This is possible thanks to the innate tendency of these cells, which adhere to each other forming something similar to small meat filaments and increasing the volume progressively. When they are compacted, you can already say thatsynthetic meat has been obtained.

But before Prost succeeded, there were predecessors who already fiddled with themeat 'in vitro'. It was NASA that first experimented with laboratory meat in the 1990s, during the search for food that was preserved in space. In 2009, Time magazine considered synthetic meat one of the best ideas of the year.

In search of the perfect meat

However, the texture will never be the same as an authentic meat steak. This is because meat is more than protein and muscle fiber, which is what gives rise to synthetic meat. Blood, fat and various tissues are involved in meat. Its absence changes the texture of this laboratory meat, but also its taste and smell. And, in origin, synthetic meat is tasteless and colorless. Beet juice dota thecharacteristic red color of meat; while saffron, salt, egg powder and breadcrumbs give it its characteristic flavor.

To achieve this similarity, the one called 'Frankenburger' (the first hamburger created from synthetic meat) has a cost of about 250,000 euros, which makes it unfeasible as a real alternative. Anyway, the team of Dutch researchers led by Mark Prost is optimistic and committed to a more competitive and much cheaper product. For this they will use the advances that technology provides, as well asuse 3D printingfor the creation of steaks and chops.

A future bet not without controversies

Experts believe that by 2020 it could be in supermarkets and be another option when feeding. But there are many voices that wonder if a product created in a laboratory is a healthy way to feed. Researchers working on this project answer this question without a doubt: yes,It is healthy from a nutritional point of view.It is a meat produced in a laboratory, but in whose process the chemicals do not intervene, something that cannot be guaranteed in many traditional meats.

What is clear is that the current livestock industry is not sustainable in the long term. This is demonstrated by the WHO, which ensures that in about 40 years the demand for meat by the world population will double and that it cannot be satisfied with traditional methods. Given this premise, we only have to look for alternatives, and synthetic meat is the one that has the best chance of becoming a real option.

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