The Science of “SuperMeat” : If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

supermeat unicorns1Please note transcript of this episode will be posted later today. “SuperMeat” should have as its logo “Not good for human or nonhuman animals, or the planet”. We all know the saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. This episode examining some of the science clearly shows this to be the case. We really needs to ask ourselves, how many ways can we avoid doing the obvious and best thing for nonhumans and humans? It seems the list is endless.

If you’ve been following the most recent craze to sweep up “animal advocacy” groups and supporters, we have at least 3 different businesses rushing to develop “cultured meat” or techno-meat as we prefer to call it. In this episode (with the background research of Dede River) I’ll address science behind the brand “SuperMeat” which claims to be different to all other “cultured meat” because it claims to be “100% meat and 0% animal suffering”. During this episode, I’ll be referring to a Q&A by Professor Nahmias who is head research and development scientist for SuperMeat.

I invite you to listen to my prior episodes which cover another brand of techno meat — “Clean Meat” Part 1: Some Ethical Considerations
Clean Meat” Part 2: Some Practical Implications and Unforeseen Outcomes

For more information:
What’s Wrong With In Vitro Meat?


Transcript: Please note this may not be an accurate transcript of the podcast. Thanks.

Super Meat / Techno-meat

(Vegan Trove Podcast)

First, just to bring your attention to the previous podcast about “Clean Meat” (Part 1 and 2), another brand of “cultured meat” and I invite you to listen to that podcast episode prior to listening to this one about “SuperMeat” which is another brand of “cultured meat” being developed at present.

Dede River has kindly done some research for me on SuperMeat and the claims the researcher Prof Nahmias has made about this particular brand of lab meat. And in this episode I will share this information with you. It may assist you in understanding this particular brand of lab meat which the research Prof Nahmias claims has “0% animal suffering and is “100% meat”.

So I will share some of Dede’s research which exposes some of the faults in the claims made by the research and development scientist Prof Y. Nahmias. Dede has a background in biology so she was able to sift through some of the research online and hold this up against the claims made about “SuperMeat”. I think you will find this to be helpful. The first part of this explanation might seem a little dry, but bear with me.

A lot has been said recently about techno-meat, meat produced via tissue culture in a bioreactor. It’s been given names like “Clean Meat”, “New Harvest”, “SuperMeat” and so on, but it remains variations on meat made through tissue culture from cells, a process that bio-amplifies the cells, allowing them to replicate through many divisions, creating potentially tonnes of cells from the original few.

As a vegan, the first question that runs through my mind is “why bother”. Any vegans I know are definitely not yearning for meat or other animal products. And even if they could magically nod their heads and produce it, I certainly would not want to eat it. A plant based diet is diverse, tasty and delightful, the variations are almost infinite, and there are so many different tastes from different plants and ways to cook them and combine them. It’s a taste paradise that has no need for mock meat. There are all sorts of textures. Animal products really provide nothing special, though most flavours can be duplicated if really desired. And as we know we do not need animal products at all to be healthy or to survive. We can easily meet all our nutrition needs from plants (and other non-animal sources). And of course, the most important reason to be vegan is that animals are sentient beings. They are not our resources. They are not our property. They are not “things” to be used for food, clothing, entertainment or other reasons.

If there is a sense of something missing, an effort using plant-based foods seems far simpler, more ecologically sound, healthier, lower tech and less expensive than this massive high-tech effort that will ultimately need to be funded by big bio-engineering firms, like Bayer, or GlaxoSmithKlein, or Monsanto. And make no mistake, nearly all the efforts of these small start-up companies like “SuperMeat” are aimed at eventually being bought up by, in the words of Professor Nahmias from “SuperMeat”, mega-corporations in order to go into real production.

It amazes me when proponents of “cultured meat” call on romantic notions of traditional dishes, but many favourite dishes actually introduce spices and so on to mask the taste of animal flesh. Beef Rendang, Barbequed ribs, Buffalo wings, all these owe their taste to strong spices. There’s an abundance of ways to cook plant foods using such strong spices. So why go to so much trouble to make a sort of minced product that will need a lot of effort to make it seem like meat?

There are two answers. The first is that it is a “technically sweet” as an endeavour that has its roots in human tissue and organ research and in genetic engineering, and will have application in those areas for the bio-medical corporations for human health, building new organs, and replacing old tired organs. It allows corporations to control “meat” in the same way they increasingly control seeds and patented plants. It is involved in the efforts to counteract ageing for those who can afford it. The second reason is that it validates the desire for meat. This will support the meat industry, which will always be able to provide the “natural”, “traditional” alternative to this techno-meat. Many people who are encouraged to eat techno-meat, because “meat is good”, will opt at least some of the time to eat “natural” meat. The whole thing hooks us back into the idea that using animals is not just acceptable, but ultimately desirable.

It’s being touted as the next wonderful thing to end the exploitation of animals (and maybe help the environment and our health). More and more Animal Welfare and New Welfarist organisations are getting on board, though the researchers seem to come from those looking at cell culture for human biomedical uses, and both Mark Post and Prof. Namiahs state they are not vegan. While Clean Meat’s Bruce Freidrich, a professional animal welfare executive says he is vegan, his organisation is actually not doing research. They are collecting money, presumably to start a company competing with those associated with the actual researchers. There are several companies wanting to cash in on this, but most are like “Clean Meat”, only trying to raise money, not doing science or any sort of production. They plan to get started, then use someone else’s technology, then sell their brand. So claims they will, for example, not use animal products in the medium (a synthetic medium instead of foetal calf’s blood) are effectively principles not yet backed up by science. It is unproved.

The first major proponent of techno-meat production is Professor Mark Post, of Maastricht University, who is advisor to New Harvest. The Netherlands Government put in several million dollars for techno-meat research, and this is one reason they are a centre for research and development. Post led the cultured meat project at that university, resulting in the production in 2013 of a hamburger made of beef muscle as a “proof of concept”. This is the first time the idea has been practically developed to such a point. At this point, I’ll simply mention that it is based on taking a biopsy (a small amount of cells gathered in a hollow needle 10mm long and 1 mm wide in diameter) from an animal, then growing up the cells in a bioreactor to produce a batch of up to 10 tonnes of meat. This method requires a biopsy for each batch. It uses both stem cells, muscle cells and ultimately, fat cells. The first hamburger was muscle only, and was considered “too dry”, so cultured animal fat will be added.

The other major proponent is Israeli scientist Professor Yaakov “Koby” Nahmias of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His technique is to immortalise a form of stem cells, (mesenchymal stem cells or MSCs), and to use that as a basis for his tissue culture. Immortalisation generally requires the elimination of cell senescence (aging) by genetic manipulation. MSCs are generally sourced from bone marrow, adipose tissue, or connective tissue, though they are present in other tissue, and their ability to proliferate and differentiate decreases with the age of the donor. So, the initial biopsy would probably be from the fat or connective tissue of a young chick. Of course, after making the cells immortal, theoretically no other biopsy is necessary. Once an immortal line is generated, SuperMeat would keep it going, and use seed cultures to produce their product. The main challenge will be to get the cells to differentiate into the proper tissues.

Prof. Nahmias claims that, since he is working from immortal cell lines, he would not need foetal calf blood or foetal calf serum (FBS), and that he already has a synthetic medium. Mark Post (New Harvest) uses FBS, but is developing synthetic medium.

The biggest issue I have with Nahmias’ Q&A about SuperMeat is that he tries to make it simple and appealing to animal advocates. They only use one biopsy, ever, he claims. That one sample can feed the world forever he claims. He doesn’t use foetal serum. So, no animals…. But the science is not simple. The problems are far from simple. And he is already using all the research done previously on “lab” meat, so he is already using research which has used who knows how many animals, how many cows and foetal calves. No one is prepared to give an estimate on how many animals have been used so far, despite numerous questions to Bruce Friedrich of Good Food Institute, or the GFI scientist, or questions to the SuperMeat group.

I’ve taken most of the information on Nahmias’ technique from his Q&A session on the SuperMeat Facebook page ( I use this source as the only one I could find giving any detail. It is a far less cohesive explanation than Mark Post’s lecture to the World Economic Forum on the Maastricht technique.

Nahmias starts by saying that they do not use Foetal Calf’s Serum (FBS) and for those who haven’t listened to my part 1 of the episode on “Clean Meat” episode 35, foetal calf blood is obtained at the slaughterhouse after the calf’s mother has been killed, and the dying foetal calf is cut up of the womb of his mother, and his blood is syringed from his still beating heart. That is the serum that clean meat uses for his cells. Nahmias says he will not be using foetal calf’s blood in his research but Mark Post is using this at present, but Post says this will eventually be replaced with an artificial serum.

So Nahmias says he uses mesenchymal cells. Mesenchymal cells are a form of stem cell, found mainly in connective tissue, like bone marrow and cartilage, or in adipose tissue (fat). As multi-potent stem cells, they are able to differentiate into some but not all other sorts of cells, in this case, bone, cartilage, muscle, and fat cells. Primary cells have a naturally short life span, losing the ability to replicate or differentiate after about 7 to 12 replications. Cell culture of mesenchymal cells is considered fairly simple, with only a small amount of FBS (Foetal calf serum) or human platelet lysate needed. Nahmias has said none is needed, and that he has worked on showing this while at Harvard. There is no reason to doubt that he can grow mesenchymal cells without serum. I’m not so certain about muscle and other tissue.

Nahmias never says how he makes his cells “immortal” but natural senescence can be overcome in many cell lines by eliminating (“knocking down”) the anti-cancer functions and expressions of tumour suppressants like p53 which prevent uncontrolled growth. They are knocked down through means like the use of lentivirus, while also using human telemorase reverse transcriptase to eliminate the telomerase production that snips bits off the special bottom region of chromosomes (telomeres) with every reproduction, a kind of biological clock. Eliminating these things means reproduction is uncontrolled, and the cell no longer registers age. It becomes cancer-like in it’s growth.

Nahmias makes a very big point of not needing additional biopsies. While “immortal” cell lines are, potentially, immortal, in real life tissue culture, cell lines become contaminated. One only needs to look at speciality human cell lines, often cancers used for research, to see this. Foetal lung cultures end up being cervical adenocarcinoma, liver myofibroblasts end up being a lab rat cell line, what is supposed to be a Hodgkins disease spleen line ends up being cells from a three striped night monkey kidney. These are immortal cell lines supposed to be used in human medical research. The lines may be being used in medical research institutions all over the world, yet all are contaminated. And how much more care is given to cells used for human cancer research than would be used for making chicken nuggets?

Contaminated cell lines are more common than not. That’s the problem with an immortal cell line. The longer it persists, the more chance something goes wrong, which is then replicated to all future cells in that line. Not only is contamination a problem, but there is also mutation and genetic drift. The longer a cell line persists, the less chance there is that it is what it started as. This is, I believe, one reason the Mark Post team opt for a new biopsy for each batch of “meat”. They are unmodified cells, used for a very limited period, and there is a lot less chance of something going wrong.

What else we know about Nahmias’ “SuperMeat” process is that he says it uses microvascularisation in the tissue culture. I believe that would be small tubes to carry medium, rather than bathing the culture in medium. The culture circulates, and levels of nutrients are monitored, and added as required, as opposed to simply changing the entire medium at intervals, and throwing the old stuff away, as is done in a lab.

What he doesn’t say is that if Mark Post’s technique is indeed a batch bioreactor, the product is all the cells produced, not a product from a cell, like we see in insulin or human growth hormone production from bacterial cells. Mark Post’s method is to coat small plastic balls with cells and this is amenable to use in certain large bio-reactors that would circulate medium, adding nutrients and extracting waste as needed. It would make economic sense. Mark Post has said he will not use foetal serum in his system, once it gets going. He can’t, there is not enough, and would not be, so both intend to use synthetic mediums.

What else Nahmias does not say is what is in his medium. He indicated it would need growth hormone and other biological agents. It needs amino acids (protein). After all, even cell lines don’t grow on fresh air. They need to “eat” and they produce waste. They are living cells. Where do amino acids come from? Will they come from grains and beans? Is this then simply a technological feed lot on a cellular level? If you make 20,000 kg of meat from a gram of cells, you will need to feed those cells at least 20,000 kg of food, – amino acids, sugars and so on, likely several times that. Clearly, if you are using amino acids, vitamins, minerals and so on in bioavailable form, you probably won’t use grass to extract them from. Cows convert grass to digestible food by having a rumen where special bacteria can metabolise cellulose. Cells can’t do it. Industrial processes have not successfully done it commercially. For cell medium, they will need to use plants like corn, oats, wheat, lentils, peas.

Nahmias makes a big point of the fact that you are only needing to “feed” muscle cells, not a whole animal. But that means you need to substitute industrial processes for all the things an animal does naturally: digest food; search out food. You can’t throw wheat into a vat of cells. You will need to crush the wheat, extract the amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and do so carefully, with minimal loss. You will need to grow the wheat. There are no “free range” cells. You will need to plant the wheat, grow it, harvest it, transport it before you process it to extract the amino acids, minerals and vitamins, and dispose of the waste. You can say the conversion of food to cell growth is more efficient than raising an animal, but if you really look at the energy conversion, you would need to count in the entire process, from tilling and harvesting, transporting, to the machines that crush and extract nutrients, storing and preserving nutrients, and count all the energy the machines use, and all the energy used to make and maintain the machinery. When we’re talking about millions of tonnes of meat, millions of tonnes of nutrients, we’re talking about major agricultural industries. If the reason we want to use “Cultured Meat” is so that we do not use animals, and we’re looking at comparisons for efficiency and environmental impact, then the comparison should not be SuperMeat to regular meat, but SuperMeat to a plant-based diet for humans.

Later, when he talks about energy, he makes a big issue of the difference between heating an oven and keeping it hot. But we’re talking about 100 million tonnes of chicken produced annually globally. Factor in the cost of warming the medium he speaks of, and keeping it warm. Then include all the pumps for medium, the grinders, the monitoring equipment, the separators, and so on, and you should be looking not at a home oven, but at something like a cross between a beer factory, and a pharmaceutical plant. This doesn’t count the energy to produce the inputs ingredients e.g amino acids from grains, beans etc.

This does not even consider the need for growth hormone, insulin, cortisone, and other hormones that Nahmias mentions, (16:49) which would need to be produced synthetically or biotechnologically, as human insulin already is. But the development of human insulin production through genetically engineered bacteria was not a simple thing, and though similar development of genetically engineered (GE) chicken insulin may be easier, it is yet another technical effort needed to make this work. Or will SuperMeat use human GE insulin? Will they start production of GE chicken insulin? Or will it use porcine or bovine insulin, extracted from the pancreas of pigs or cows? We’ve never had truly synthetic insulin. So where will it come from? Chicken production does not use growth hormones. So what growth hormones will be used in cell culture, and where will they come from? Will it be human or bovine GE growth hormone, or does SuperMeat count on yet another bioengineered hormone? He also mentions an “oxygen carrier as close to plasma as possible”… does that mean something like haemoglobin? What would that be? There are, as far as I know, no well accepted “oxygen carrying” blood substitutes.

Another thing Nahmias doesn’t say is how you go from an immortal line of stem cells to something like meat. We don’t eat stem cell burgers. Clearly, you’d need to differentiate your stem cells to muscle cells somehow. He says:

You’ll notice that we are growing very tiny tissues, essentially tissues that can grow by themselves. Now these tissues include blood vessels that allow us to encapsulate it and grow it in it’s own machine. We do not require blood vessels to form them, but once they are formed, we can essentially perfuse them, just like Alexis Call (Not sure of this reference, sp?) perfused his tissues, and grow them in an environment mimicking animal physiology. Now because this is an environment that mimics animal physiology, we grow the cells much more cost efficiently again.

He talks about growing a vascular system, veins, arteries and capillaries, apparently run by a pump. He doesn’t go into how this grows. Does it just naturally happen, and hook itself up to pumps? Do technicians perform surgery on the cells? Is this cells attaching to vascularised plastic membranes that are part of a perfusion reactor? He talks about a system of growing tiny packets of cells in a system that mimics animal physiology. How does this scale up to provide 100 million tonnes of meat annually? What kind of pumps would deal with a large quantity of these “small packets” and yet not damage the cells. How many pumps, and what sort of piping would it require? If they attach to plastic membrane films, how are they made available without damaging the equipment?

In the first 10 minutes or so he goes into his process. Then he moves to marketing, and cycles back to technical issues as questions arise. It is hard to follow as a practical guide, and often repetitive.

He hopes that in two years, he’ll have his “test of concept”, his version of Post’s 250,000 Euro hamburger. I suppose his version will be chicken nuggets. In another 2 years, he hopes to have his machine for growing chicken flesh. He then makes clear that once the development phase is over, he’ll sell to a big company that can finance this. At 16:10 minutes into the talk, he says that the indiegogo fundraising the site does is not about money, and repeats this a few more times during the talk. They don’t need money, donations are only a means of demonstrating “massive public support” to the big corporations so that they will recognise a good investment and will take over and fund the business. As he says, “We need tens of thousands of individuals supporting this concept so we can get the mega corporations behind us, and we can get this product to the market.

He reiterates, again and again, that they will only have maybe 5 biopsies from five chickens, ever. This is not a good idea, and probably not honest. He claims the cells are naturally immortalised, and can’t say how. That is not consistent with what science says about mesenchymal cells. It is true immortalised cells are not cancers, as are many human cell lines used for cancer research, but as far as I see in journals, they can only be immortalised by disabling the ageing and cancer suppressing mechanisms of the cells, so they can grow in an uncontrolled manner. In other words, while not cancer, they become cancer-like.

He also frequently reiterates the other selling point, that they don’t use foetal calf serum. Since Post also plans to use synthetic serum, this is not really relevant. As Mark Post says, industrial production of cultured meat cannot use foetal serum, because there simply is not, and will not be, the supply.

His answers to questions on efficiency of medium use are misleading. Comparing his process to lab techniques with a few millilitres of fluid is inaccurate, in that no industrial cell culture works that way. He needs to compare to, for instance, the medium use in bacterial insulin production.

Around 29:00 minutes he again mentions “machine perfusion” as the element that will determine how long it will take to produce his meat. Machine perfusion is essentially a system that allows a cell culture to keep growing, while circulating medium, adding nutrients and cleaning wastes, rather than doing a “batch”. This might work with immortal cell lines, but the issue will be how to harvest cells, and what to do with them next. Obviously, for meat production we don’t want single cells, and probably don’t want to be eating stem cells. How the system results in producing fibrous muscle cells while maintaining an immortal line of stem cells is the real unanswered question. Also, earlier he mentioned small packets of cells that would develop their own vessels for circulation (vascularisation). How would natural vascularisation take place? Would these cells attach to membranes or would they float free?

He then talks about doubling time. He makes theoretical comments, with constant rates, but real cells react differently to crowding, often slowing reproduction. Something else to note is that while he uses the example of doubling of cells daily, this is an example, not necessarily the doubling time for cells.

It also leaves several questions unanswered. If you are growing cells, rather than continually producing the product of cells, at what point do you “harvest” the cells in a perfusion reactor? How do you do this without damaging the remaining cells? In a batch reactor it would be clear. The batch is done. In a perfusion reactor, do you take half? Do you take seven eighths? Is it continuous? You would need a system for ongoing harvest without disrupting what is, after all living tissue you want to retain in the reactor, particularly if the cells have adhered to some sort of membrane. And what form would such harvested cells have? What post-harvest treatment would be needed before it is anything someone would want to eat?

Professor Nahmias then extols the days of backyard chickens and warns of the dangers of “factory farms”. This feeds straight into the welfarist agenda, and essentially forgets that chickens are sentient beings, who should never have been eaten. This welfarism is the underlying message, along with the delight of eating animal flesh. Eating chicken is good. It’s great. Factory farms are bad. Even better than backyard chicken is techno-chicken. No animal is harmed. Only one biopsy ever. Never need serum. So eating chicken is great. He wants his sons to have that pleasure, for cultural reasons.

The fact is this is a huge technical production, one that will require agriculture to feed the cells plant products, and will create some sort of flesh that most likely won’t look much like what we normally see in a butcher’s shop, and will need control and funding and marketing by mega corporations, simply to eat some kind of chicken meat, presumably for the taste, though I’m not even sure of that. My basic reaction is revulsion.

Then Nahmias gets visionary, rather like Post, with chicken machines in every supermarket, and even in each house. I ask, really? Scientists in labs with positive pressure, bio-suits, laminer flow tables, filtered, sterile rooms can’t keep immortal cell lines uncontaminated, and regular householders are going to make this in their kitchens? And keep it all sterile? After all, ideal medium for growing cells at 37 degrees C can grow anything. Bacteria, fungus. A system for multiplying cells a million times will multiply any cell that happens to contaminate it. Did you forget to wash your hands? Did you pet the dog, or did he lick you? Were the kids in here messing around? How many people have had weird fungi grow on food in their fridge? If you can grow fungus and bacteria in a refrigerator designed to preserve food, how will you go with a warm culture medium designed to maximise cell growth? Is your kitchen really a lab? And since cell lines have no antibodies, or white blood cells, or any immune system, what antibiotics and anti-fungals will we use in our meat machines, to avoid growing a mass of who knows what? And how will eating it affect us. And won’t that increase the number of anti-biotic resistant bacteria? What about things like avian flu? It is, after all, living chicken cells we are growing. Antibiotics don’t work on virus. The animal/human boundary for disease transmission is already breaking down.

Nahmias says having a chicken machine in the kitchen eliminates transportation costs. Let’s think about the transport costs for the food you need to feed your SuperMeat cells. After all, they eat. They eat fast, seeing as they multiply fast. You need to feed them more food than they produce, even if they are more “efficient” food converters than a real animal, as long as you don’t count the production costs for the cell’s food. You can grow your own chicken, just like 10,000 years ago. All you need is to buy a chicken machine, cell lines, medium, pay the power bill. You can even talk to the machine, and I’m sure they will come in pretty colours. It’s just the same as going outside and looking at real animals. And you don’t need to kill the machine, though it might die unless you have it maintained semi-annually.

Of course we didn’t need to kill the chickens in the old days, either. We could have just admired their beauty. We certainly don’t need to kill them today.

The really disgusting thing is the assumption that we all want to eat meat, and get this meat to everyone. Nahmias loves meat, wants meat, wants it for his kids. In calculating environmental costs, he compares the “efficiency” of techno-meat to feedlot meat. After all, how else can we figure we’ll have less farming. But if his concern really is not harming animals, the comparison should be techno-meat and agriculture for a plant-based diet. Plant-based diets will always result in much less land use than techno-meat. He talks about concern for the health of his kids, because of the arsenic, salmonella and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in chicken flesh. But what about all the health problems from eating meat itself, to say nothing of the antibiotics, anti-fungals, and other additives we needed to keep the culture going. And what happens when people get a little slipshod with their antibiotics for their chicken machine. Don’t tell me antibiotic resistant bacteria are not going to proliferate.

He does the whole “meat is part of human civilisation” thing, to justify why he bothers with developing “SuperMeat” at all. Slavery was part of human civilisation until very recently. So was, and often is, misogyny and patriarchy and racism. It’s not a good excuse.

Interestingly, someone asked about cuts of meat. He basically said it doesn’t make sense to talk about leg meat, or breast meat. It’s cellular sludge, that can be treated in various ways: more fat, less fat (no other ways were suggested). Then out of left field he then mentions making bone with ceramics. What? Then back to how much he likes meat, and how good meat is. And on to a number of myths and inaccuracies. The whole “we need protein” which ignores the fact that vegans get more than enough protein unless they are on some very restrictive diet. And his claims about tofu. As a vegan, I rarely eat tofu. The tofu-eating vegan is a myth or an exception, and tofu is not necessary for protein. A healthy plant-based diet includes leafy green veggies, grains and pulses, but not particularly soy beans. With the prevalence of GMO, more and more vegans avoid soy products unless they are non-GMO.

Then we go to iron, and a new part of the agenda unfolds. “We need iron” ignores the fact people in general, and vegans in particular, generally get more iron than we need, and “more easily assimilated” heme iron is bad for us, particularly because of how easily it is assimilated. It manages to bypass the body’s regulatory system, because the body sees it as blood. None the less, he suggests that the product can be modified to incorporate liver cells, to give us more heme iron. This is the start of looking at SuperMeat as what the food industry calls a neo-food, a product that can be manipulated. It can be made “healthier”. The cell line can be manipulated, add liver for more iron. The inputs can be manipulated: make more of the lipids Omega 3-rich. Ultimately, the genes can be manipulated. Incorporate genes for omega 3 in the chicken. Incorporate genes for vitamin c. Monsanto and others already “improve” all sorts of life forms.

The basic issue is that this supports the use of meat. This is another way of saying “meat is just fine”. And people ask, will I be able to get different cuts of meat? The answer is, not really. You will have a hard time getting a “drumstick”. “Buffalo wings” probably are not on the menu. You might get nuggets, or maybe some fibrous thing for a Caesar salad. Maybe something that can be used for kabab. But not roast chicken. Likewise with Post’s beef, you can get a hamburger, but you won’t get a T-bone steak, or spare ribs. So, all the his talk of cultural appeal of meat is something of an illusion. If people want to assert their culture by eating sentient beings, they will stick with the ones with bones and familiar shapes. Even texture… Nahmias mentioned how much easier liver cells are to culture. They are more sponge like, not forming long, meatlike fibres. That makes it easier to grow them in a reactor. It will also make a mushier meat. He holds out the promise of foie gras, but that’s just pate made with a sick, fatty liver. And it’s easy to process. It is mush.

Essentially, SuperMeat, Clean Meat, New Harvest are all just new validations of meat eating. And they are all forms that will be in the minority, because they are not traditional, and not what people are looking for in terms of taste and texture. Making techno-meat is also a major technical enterprise. People get excited because it means they can eat meat, and the process is “technically sweet” as they said of genetic engineering. But techno-meat will never be a substitute for meat, just a validation of eating meat.

And it is not an accident that the researchers are all involved in biomedical engineering. It is not an accident that the CEO of New Harvest, Isha Datar was formerly with bio-medical and pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline, who in 2013 bought Human Genome Sciences. The research for human biomedical purposes, like growing replacement tissues and organs, is essentially similar to that for growing meat. It is not an accident that there are recommendations for “improving” meat and animal products, or that the sort of companies likely to buy the techno-meat startups like “SuperMeat” are the same companies that bought up the genetic engineering labs. TechnoMeat is the new Genetic Engineering. It holds out its promise, and will likely be plagued with similar problems and levels of distrust.

Bottom line, there is no reason any vegan should involve themselves in cultured meat. Animal products are not necessary, and even so called “animal-less” animal products will simply reinforce the acceptance of animal use.

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