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Dutch boffins tout green petri-dish synthetic meat

Look to eliminate pig-fart methane hazard

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Dutch bio-boffins are seeking to sate modern consumer lust for animal flesh by growing artificial pig tissue from stem cells.

According to a Reuters report, academics at Utrecht University reckon that vat-grown synthi-pork would benefit the environment and involve less cruelty than current methods. In particular, methane greenhouse gas emissions from pig farts would become a thing of the past.

"Keeping animals just to eat them is in fact not so good for the environment," said the leader of the artificial meat team, Bernard Roelen. "Animals need to grow, and animals produce many things that you do not eat."

There's no arguing with that.

Roelen's team starts out by isolating pigs' muscle stem cells, which divide and multiply into tasty masses of porcine meaty goodness. The cultured carno-treat is fed with unspecified "nutrients" and "exercised" with "electric current", apparently. It doesn't sound totally cruelty-free, but presumably muscles grown without nerves can feel no pain.

Asked about the possible gastronomic compromises involved in the adoption of synthetic pig flesh, Roelen admitted that "some people will have problems with it".

"People might think it is artificial," he went on. "But some people might not realise that some part of the meat they eat is artificial."

Depending on the level of their pig-based handheld snack consumption, perhaps; and/or how much Spam™ (non-IT variety) they eat. Perhaps coincidentally, the "chopped pork and ham" tinned luncheon meat passed its 60th anniversary just a few days ago. It's "89 per cent pork", and "two per cent ham" apparently: could be a niche there for Professor Roelen's synthiflesh.

That said, the pork-tech isn't fully developed yet. The Dutch pig-culture pioneers can currently produce only thin layers of meat. Such meat-sheets may need to be laminated to form bricks of product, in a process akin to making plywood or formica, "since meat grown in petri dishes lacks the blood vessels needed to deliver nutrients through thick muscle fibers", according to Reuters.

There may be obstacles ahead before Prof Roelen can bring his methane-neutral vat grown piggy to market.

Reuters' report is here. ®

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