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Futuristic lab-grown meat possibly healthier

Lab grown Meat
Photo: Futuristic lab-grown meat possibly healthier
Meat grown in a laboratory is possibly healthier than meat from slaughtered animals.

"If it's done right it will be more healthy," Johannes le Coutre from the UNSW School of Chemical Engineering told AAP.

Producing meat in a laboratory involves taking cells from a live animal using a biopsy, before growing the cells in a large vat called a bioreactor - but commercial production is still some years away.

The process gives scientists a large amount of control over the nutritional content, and avoids the antibiotics often used in commercial agriculture.

Alan Barclay from Dieticians Australia agrees it's possible lab-grown meat might be healthier, but warned there are unknowns, including whether any additional nutrients will be "bioavailable" for the body to use.
"To say that it will be more nutritious is probably difficult to prove right now, but there's a lot of good reasons for exploring it," Dr Barclay told AAP.

Scientists are still working out how to make the meat product tasty, affordable, and socially acceptable.

"I do not anticipate there will be large cuts of cultivated meat hanging in supermarkets in the next five to 10 years," Prof le Coutre said.

Cultivated meat is about 30-times more expensive to produce than meat from an animal, but Prof le Coutre believes developing the technology is vital, because lab-grown meat is more sustainable than traditional agriculture.

"The sustainability and ethical arguments are very strong," he said.

As the global population increases over the next three decades, calorie production will need to increase by 70 per cent.

Dr Barclay agrees that cultivating meat could be a more sustainable way to fulfil increased demand, as the standard of living improves globally.

"But it's certainly possible to have a healthy vegetarian diet - there are many ways of eating well," he said.

Prof le Coutre said it's likely cultivated meat products would initially appear on supermarket shelves in products such as stock or seasoning.

There would still be a place for meat produced from farm animals, as it may take many years before lab-grown meat is socially acceptable, and can be produced on a large scale, he added.

"It won't happen overnight, but it will happen over generations - at one point in time it will just be a way of producing food," he said.

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