2010 Cloned Meat Update
Finds Cultured Meat Superior to Agriculturally-Grown Meat
PETA May Increase Prize to Get Cloned Meat on Market
By John Otrompke
A research project conducted by Jason Matheny of New Harvest found that the production of cultured meat by an in vitro cloning process would be more efficient and produce less environmental damage than agricultural models currently in place.
“We conducted an environmental assessment comparing an in vitro system to the organic system of meat production, and found that the in vitro method uses 90% less land and water and generates 90% fewer greenhouse gases,” said Matheny, who founded DC-based non-profit New Harvest to study and promote alternatives to traditionally-generated meat.
“In vitro meat is more than twenty times more effective than raising animals for food,” said Bruce Friedrich, voice president for policy at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “You have to put 20 calories into a chicken or a pig to get one calorie out in the form of meat, or six to eight in for one calorie of eggs or dairy,” Friedrich explained.
PETA has offered a prize of one million dollars for the first organization to bring cloned meat to market by June 30, 2012. “Our announcement generated a significant buzz in the scientific community. We did receive inquiries from scientists, although we were also told that our prize ought to be more like $20 million,” said Friedrich, who added that PETA would like to see cloned meat on the market “like yesterday.”
“In order to get a commercialized product on the market, the prize should be not in the millions, but in the billions,” said Matheny, who noted that other prizes exist, such as the Innocentive prize from Eli Lilly, and the NASA Millennium Prize, among others.
“Still, PETA’s prize might be good for incremental development; for instance, the creation of a new culture medium might be amenable to a prize,” Matheny explained. Current cultures for cloning allow for the growth of only thin strips of meat, because meat can’t be cloned in three dimensions, while new techniques for cloning like that offered by Hurel allow cloning in three-dimensions, but use a culture which is inedible and silicon-based.
“If Jason called us, and said, ‘We need $20 million and we’ll have a product on the market, we don’t have $20 million right now, but I imagine we’d start making some calls,” said Friedrich.
Compelling Arguments for Cloned Meat
The need for cloned meat may grow in urgency as the Earth approaches a critical stage of pollution. “By 2050, we’re looking at a doubling of greenhouse gas emissions, which also means a doubling of soil pollution, cancer and cardiovascular disease associated with meat consumption, and a doubling of swine and avian flu,” said Matheny. According to PETA’s Friedrich, raising animals for food is the number one cause of global warming.
Agricultural societies tend to be more interested in cloned meat, and invest more heavily in the project. “In the Netherlands, people live closer to hog farms, and are concerned about the smell and the water pollution, so the government supports projects looking at meat alternatives,” said Matheny. Other funders of cloned meat research include NASA, and a couple of commercial start-ups exist related to cloned meat, including one in Australia and on in the Netherlands.
Cloning meat may be a way of making meat consumption healthier for the individual, too, PETA’s Friedrich said. “We may be able to create meat with less saturated fat, less cholesterol, more omega 3s, and we may even be able to clone meat with vitamins,” he explained.
While the success of cloned meat ultimately depends on non-vegetarians, the final product is likely to be superior in quality to the ground meat which is currently on the market, according to Matheny, who is a vegetarian. “This is meat that has been pulled from the animal with a vacuum tube, and then whipped into a slurry which then has a binder, textures and seasoning added to it,” he explained.