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TEDxBrainport - Mark Post - Meet the new meat

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Enlighten your brain Mark Post - Meet the new meat The introduction by Bert [Meijer] was actually, in many ways, wonderful, because I'm going to take you back for a much simpler question - whether we can make meat in the laboratory. You will immediately say, "Yuck." And that's the response of many people. Well, I'll try to convince you that it's actually required to do so if Bert has not already done that job for me. Here are all sorts of imaginary names: Franken‑burger, Lab Chops, Petri‑Pork, but in fact it's really required to start working on this principle. Because now we use pigs and cows, and they are very inefficient in converting edible vegetable proteins into edible animal proteins. We all eat meat, and we'll continue to eat meat. In fact, the World Health Organization has estimated that by 2050, the meat consumption will have doubled. That's primarily from other nations. Right now, we are already using 70% of our arable lands for meat production through livestock. So you can do the math very easily, that's not sustainable. (Laughter) The other reason why we want to get rid of the livestock is that it is environmentally very cumbersome: cows produce 39% of the methane, one of the greenhouse gases, and together the livestock produces about 40% of all our greenhouse gases. Which has sort of led to the expression that a meat‑eater with a bicycle is actually much more environmentally unfriendly than a vegetarian with a Hummer. [laughter & applause] There's another reason, a number of other reasons why you want to get rid of the livestock. That's because we all know that the bio‑industry is sort of animal unfriendly: these are calves that have no space, have no sunlight, because their flesh needs to be white, because we export it to Italy, and they want white veal. And the fourth reason is that there are zoonoses: we all know that, hearing this earlier. You have Q fever, that's one good example, and it's a result of intense herding in the bio‑industry. The concept is actually very simple. We don't make life, we already use life: a cell, a stem cell, from the muscle of an animal. You have many stem cells, and also we have many stem cells in our muscle. You can actually take them out of a muscle and you can grow meat from it in the laboratory. These cells, since they are stem cells, dedicated to become muscle, nothing else, they proliferate. From one cell, right now, we can make a million, and sometimes a billion. And those cells in the lab, more or less by themselves, start to become skeletal muscle tissue, which is the basis for meat. It's actually a very, very simple concept. Here, you see that cell growing out of a muscle fiber, and right now it can undergo 20 doublings. We can make (and actually this work is also done at the University in Eindhoven) strips of muscle. Can you repeat that one? We can make strips of muscle out of this, and we can actually, it starts to move. And we can electrically stimulate it, and it starts to move even more vigorously. That's, at some point, required. We start with these very simple strips of scaffold: Wim van Hanegem called it 'Heugaveld-tapijt' (Heugafelt carpet). We grow skeletal muscle on those strips so they can get a 3D structure. Also, this doesn't come for free. You need to add sugars, and proteins, and fatty acids. But the thing is, you can play with it. You can make it much more efficient than a cow or a pig can do. So we can increase the efficiency of this process, and it's where our gain actually is. And we potentially also could tweak the feeding of these cells in the way that it becomes a more healthy product. Or we can use algae soup, as Bert has pointed out: The sun, together with some nitrogen and CO2 (we take CO2 out of the air through a process called photosynthesis) produces sugars and eventual proteins: we can make a mix of that and give it to the skeletal muscle. We also need to condition, that needs to make it more firm, so it stretches, we stretches our muscles, that's healthy, and it beefs up the muscle, and we can also electrically zap it to produce strength. It's called the gym in the laboratory. We have other tissues than skeletal muscle, we can also make those. We can make bones, no problem. And eventually we envision, this is an artist's rendition that we have a production of meat around these center bones, and a circulating system around it. This would be the entire factory, with an algae pool, and a cell culture system, and all these units where these are being produced. We did a life‑cycle analysis, and it shows that we can. With assumptions we can reduce land, water, and energy consumption, and this is what it eventually would look like, and it also relieves our conscience when we eat meat. Finally, there are a number of challenges which I will go through. It's not ready yet, but finally, the problem will be, what is the remaining role of the domestic animals? I'm sure you can agree with me that this is a much better state of being than on a barbecue. Thank you very much. [laughter & applause] (Translators can credit themselves here)

Video Details

Duration: 6 minutes and 58 seconds
Year: 2011
Country: Netherlands
Language: English
Producer: TEDx
Director: Joep Brouwers
Views: 163
Posted by: tradottiinitaliano on Dec 19, 2011

What do you think about laboratory-made meat? "Yuck" is likely your first reaction. Terms like 'Frankenburger' and 'Lab chops' might spring to mind. So why would we want to create artificial meat? Because breeding cows and pigs for their meat is inefficient. Only parts of the animal are consumed and meat consumption is outstripping supply.
Post explains that it is relatively simple to take stem cells from an animal and grow them to produce new muscle tissue. Simply add sugar, proteins and fat and get it into shape with a bit of exercise and you have created edible meat. The only problem then is to find a new role for our livestock...

(Many thanks to Els de Keyser, TED volunteer translator, and Professor Mark Post for their kind support during transcription)

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