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The Straits Times March, 22, 2002


Fancy some meat from the tank?

American scientists have been able to make chunks of animal flesh grow in a vat of nutrients, say British reports

LONDON - The world has come closer to the day when meat can eventually be harvested from a tank, avoiding the slaughter of animals or fish, thanks to a scientific breakthrough.

American scientists have been able to make chunks of flesh grow bigger in a tank of nutrients, according to British press reports yesterday.

Pieces of fish immersed in nutrient-rich liquid extracted from the blood of unborn calves grew 14 per cent in a week, they found.

They looked and smelled like the real thing when fried in olive oil, lemon, garlic and pepper.

The experiment to grow meat from the muscle cell lines of various animals and fish was part of an attempt to make a simple source of nutritious food for long-distance space travellers.

On major missions, such as to Mars, astronauts can tire of freeze-dried or squeezy tubes of food so the scientists have been seeking ways of producing fresh food in-flight.

Nasa commissioned a team led by Professor Morris Benjaminson, head of the research team at Touro College, New York, to grow just the animals' edible muscle.

In the experiment, small chunks of muscle between 5 cm and 10 cm long were cut from large goldfish and washed in alcohol.

They were then placed in a vat of foetal bovine serum, extracted from the blood of cattle foetuses, which is commonly used as a medium for growing cell cultures.

After a week in the vat, the fish slices had grown by 14 per cent.

Dr Benjaminson then removed them and fried them before presenting them to his colleagues.

'We wanted to make sure it'd pass for something you could buy in the supermarket,' he said.

'They said it looked like fish and smelled like fish, though they didn't go as far as tasting it.'

They have been banned from tasting it until they receive approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The results, details of which are published in New Scientist magazine, are promising enough to suggest that similar methods might be used to grow large quantities of meat.

'This could save you having to slaughter animals for food,' Dr Benjaminson said.

He added that people might be reluctant to eat food grown in the serum, particularly because of worries about variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - the human form of mad-cow disease - and hoped to find a substitute.

He is experimenting with other growth factors, although an attempt to use liquid mushroom extract ended in failure. Once a suitable serum is found, he plans to try it out on chicken, beef and lamb.

Professor Colin Pillinger, who is leading the British Beagle II Mars lander project, told The Times: 'Fish mass grown in a nutrient broth sounds as unappealing as some of the other food astronauts take up with them, but these things have got to be explored.'

He also questioned whether the equipment needed to produce fish in this manner would be practical on board a spacecraft.

'I think it would be more appropriate when you have got a base set up on a planet. The sort of equipment you need for biotechnology is fragile,' he said. 'Who knows what would happen to it during the launch and the flight?'

-- (, March 22, 2002


'This could save you having to slaughter animals for food,' Dr Benjaminson said.

The Judas-goat industry is strongly opposed.

-- (, March 22, 2002.

what about the calf fetus, are they killed or harmed in the process?

humans are sick and evil

-- (embarrassed@being.human), March 22, 2002.

I work at Oscar Meyer. This would put me out of work. Wouldn't you rather be an Oscar Meyer weenie?

-- (ONE@one's.abattoir), March 22, 2002.

A steroid steak on a stick. I remain a Vegan.

-- (Petulant Petula@PETA.pouting), March 22, 2002.

This is a stupid idea. Killing the animals is half the fun.

-- (mmm@yum.tasty), March 22, 2002.

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