A blog about food, in all of its weird and delicious glory.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The omnivore's dilemma solved

Meat in a petri dish? From the Times Online:
In different parts of the world, rival research teams are racing to produce meat using cell-culture technology. Several patents have been filed. Scientists at Nasa has been experimenting since 2001 and the Dutch Government is sponsoring a $4 million (£2 million) project to cultivate pork meat.

The idea may be stomach-turning, but the science for making pork in a Petri dish already exists.

Put simply, the process relies on a muscle precursor cell known as a myoblast, a sort of stem cell preprogrammed to grow into muscle. This cell is extracted from a living animal, and encouraged to multiply in a nutritional broth of glucose, amino acids, minerals and growth factors — Churchill’s “suitable medium”. The cells are poured on to a “scaffold” and placed in a bioreactor, where they are stretched, possibly using electrical impulses, until they form muscle fibres.

The resulting flesh is then peeled off in a “meat-sheet” and may be ground up for sausages, patties or nuggets.

Not too much worse than the way in which chicken nuggets are already made, but still a little creepy nonetheless. I'm reminded of Warren Ellis' dystopian Transmetropolitan, where everyone's favorite fast food is something called Long Pig, which serves cloned human flesh to the futuristic urban masses. If the meat was never really attached to a sentient creature in the first place, does that exculpate the eater from the blood guilt of being a carnivore -- and if so, what's to stop specialty growers from cultivating some delicious "long pig" pork chops?

Human -- it's the other other white meat!

Update: Well, that didn't take long...
Chilean artist Marco Evaristti (left) presented his friends with his newest creation on Thursday night: Meatballs cooked with fat from his own body, extracted by liposuction.

'Ladies and gentleman, bon appetit and may God bless,' said Evaristti, a glass in his hand, to his dining companions seated around a table at the Animal Gallery in Chile's capital, Santiago.

On the plates in front of them was a serving of agnolotti pasta and in the middle, a meatball made with the fat that Evaristti had removed from his body last last year.

'You are not a cannibal if you eat art,' he added. He described it as a criticism of the plastic surgery market.

(Post title with apologies to Michael Pollan. And thanks to BoingBoing for both links!)

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