Monday, August 9, 2010


Can a meat not derived from life size animals be called a vegetarian? There are plant-derived meat substitutes made by texturizing the proteins to give a product with almost same textural characteristics as meat but this type of products are not generally targeted at vegetarian population, their clientele being low income non-vegetarian consumers, not able to buy the real meat. Most of the time they end up as meat extenders, enabling the consumers to get a higher mileage for the meat they can buy. Probably in highly spiced food preparations as in India, the extent of substitutes used may not make much of a difference in the ultimate eating quality. The reported success of Bio-technologists in developing rudimentary meat muscle tissues through stem cell proliferation technique may open up new avenues to make meat-like products for use at least in products based on ground meat.

"Dr. Jim Musick, Vitro's CEO, said, "We are pleased to be involved with this ground breaking opportunity to extend stem cell technology to development of alternative food sources. Cellular immortality as reflected in continual stem cell proliferation (self-renewal) has potential to provide limitless cells that when differentiated to muscle, for example, become the primary ingredient of meat. This reflects the basis of alternative food derived from stem cells that is now being developed. We intend to use our expertise in stem cell media development and commercial manufacture to provide appropriate media formulations to support this nascent technology. Our VITROGROW(TM) Brand of stem cell media has been demonstrated to result in superior performance to competing products in the growth of human adult stem cells and is now utilized in high performance, bio-luminescent test kits (Lumenesc-Hu(TM) and LumiSTEM(TM)) for measuring the quality and potency of mesenchymal and induced-pluripotent stem cells. We anticipate contributing to this exciting new field and plan to further develop cellular immortalization procedures that may be crucial to economic production of stem cell-derived meat." Kedar Challakere, MD, of Mokshagundam Biotechnologies stated, "The in vitro meat products developed thus far have used fetal bovine serum with which to grow their stem cells. The product currently being developed through our contract with Vitro is a synthetic, animal free medium which is anticipated to replace a living organism, the brine shrimp, from the food chain of aquatic creatures."

Probably vegetarians may find it difficult to accept the product as not derived from animals as the researchers used Fetal Bovine Serum for proliferation of the stem cells. Even if animal-free medium is used for proliferation eventually, the starting material, the stem cells still have to come from animal sources. Of course if the technology reaches the stage of commercial exploitation, the meat industry will never be the same as it is to day. The two major criticisms the meat industry is facing to day are massive generation of environment polluting CO2 by the live stock industry and less than 15% conversion of feed grains into meat by the animals, considered a wasteful practice.


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