I was reading on the New York Times today that PETA has announced a contest offering $1 Million to the first producer of commercially viable meat from cell culture. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/21/us/21meat.html
The idea here is that using donor cells from mammalian muscles, scientists could engineer meats (mostly textured products… essentially meat paste) in the laboratory. No living animal need die to provide your chicken nuggets or burgers. Sounds great for those consumers with an ethical problem eating foods created by the death of another being.
However, even though we scientists like to tout cell culture as a more humane alternative to animal research, and now animal eating, the process involves the use of a media additive called Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS), or Fetal Calf Serum. This is a damn nasty substance, imho.
Essentially cell culturists can’t figure out exactly what nutritive components a cell culture needs to thrive. So we add FBS in concentrations of up to 10% to our media. The serum serves as an undefined media component in which mammalian cells can survive in a culture. The problem with FBS is that it must be obtained from….. Fetal Bovines. When a pregnant cow is slaughtered and eviscerated, the fetus is removed with the other viscera. It is then removed to another portion of the slaughter facility where blood is collected from it’s largest pool, in the usually still beating heart of the fetus. This is done via a freakin’ big needle. There is some debate as to whether or not the fetus can feel or fear at this point, but it’s still a fairly barbaric practice. It is contingent on the slaughter of both cow and calf.
Hardly death free meat. Correct?
I’m not a vegetarian. Despite my restrictions on the provenience of my food, I believe that humans are intended to consume flesh. I don’t believe however that the conscious consumer deserves the potential bait and switch that “laboratory meat” may turnout to be.