Lab Meat?

  • Posted 01.10.06
  • NOVA scienceNOW

(This video is no longer available for streaming.) Some people avoid meat because it involves killing animals. Other people love meat; they can't get enough. Here is a development that might make both sides happy: lab-made meat. In this NOVA scienceNOW video, reporter Win Rosenfeld shares this juicy story.

Running Time: 02:00



PBS Airdate: January 10, 2006

ROBERT KRULWICH: Ummm, meat—this is a story about meat. Some people avoid meat because it involves killing animals. Other people love meat. They can't get enough. Here is a development that might make both sides happy. Reporter Win Rosenfeld has the story.

DANIEL NEWMARK: I like meat. I eat it all the time.

JAY GONZALES: Pork chops, steaks...

MAYE MUSK: I love hamburger.

WIN ROSENFELD (Correspondent): You might not have thought about it, but that hamburger that he's about to put in his mouth, it's inefficient to produce.

BOB LILIENFELD (Author): ...because of all the water, grains, chemicals, fertilizers, everything it took to turn grass into cows and cows into meat, and get the meat to your house.

WIN ROSENFELD: That's a lot of energy and a lot of waste. And meat can make us sick, and we do have to kill billions of animals. Jason Matheny of the University of Maryland says he's got the answer.

JASON MATHENY (University of Maryland): What we're doing here is cloning, effectively, the muscle cells from the farm animal.

WIN ROSENFELD: Cloning meat?

JASON MATHENY: That's right.

WIN ROSENFELD: Who's going to eat that?

HARRY BIXLER: As long as it wasn't poisonous, I'd give it a try.

CATHERINE CARABALLO: If I can't tell the difference, of course I'd eat it.

MONIQUE CHANG: As long as it tastes the same.

JASON MATHENY: If you start out a chicken cell, it should taste like chicken.

WIN ROSENFELD: Then again, doesn't everything. How about texture?

JASON MATHENY: Farm animals produce meat of a certain texture because they move around. We have to mimic those conditions in vitro.

WIN ROSENFELD: In vitro meaning?

JASON MATHENY: Literally, stretch the cells mechanically.

WIN ROSENFELD: Exercise cells in a lab? Okay, so the only question left is...


WIN ROSENFELD: Here it is: cultured meat.

CROWD: Bon appetit, bon appetit.

WIN ROSENFELD: Now, this piece was made by scientists at the University of Western Australia. NASA's been interested, and the Dutch government has invested $5,000,000 dollars in cultured meat. Right now, you have to clone a cell, stretch it on a scaffold, and feed it an expensive, nutritious soup. This makes each little bit very costly. What if I wanted a little more?

JASON MATHENY: If you wanted to pay a million dollars, right now, we could get you a kilogram of beef.

WIN ROSENFELD: No thanks, I'll stick with this, for now.


Lab Meat?

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NOVA scienceNOW is a trademark of the WGBH Educational Foundation

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0229297. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

© 2006 WGBH Educational Foundation

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Image credit: (cheeseburger) © James Noble/CORBIS


Robert Lilienfeld
President, The Cygnus Group
Jason Matheny
Researcher at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

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