Shmeat: Reducing Animal Cruelty or Defeating the Purpose of a Sustainable Diet?

Non-meat eaters choose to exclude meat from their diets for a variety of reasons, but for many, animal cruelty is the reason behind their meatless decisions. Now, thanks to the newly found production of shmeat, vegans or vegetarians having the itch to dig their teeth into a nice, juicy hamburger can spoil their temptations with a bite of test tube meat, but with caution.

Shmeat, also known as in vitro meat, test tube meat, or cruelty free meat, is a lab grown, scientific feat that uses animal stem cells in order to produce meat without actually killing animals for their byproducts.  The production of shmeat is not a new discovery, as the process of producing shmeat has been around for just over a decade.

Shmeat gets its name from the combination of the words “sheet” and “meat” thanks to the process requiring a tool similar to a sheet as the animal stem cells transform into an edible solid. According to the shmeat creation of Dr. Mark Post, a tissue engineer and researcher from the Netherlands, stem cells are first removed from the neck muscle of discarded cattle meat at slaughterhouses. Then, a serum from fetal calves is used to grow and sustain the muscle cells so that they can be set on a sheet enhanced with nutrients and protein, increasing the cell size further. After billions of cells have been developed, anchored in place to create tension, and have synthesized protein on their own, the muscles become a tiny strip of rice-sized tissue, or shmeat.

In Dr. Post’s shmeat making process, not only does he utilize dead cows’ stem cells, but he also enacts the use of fetal calf serum. In fact, shmeat is not an imitation meat product, but rather actual animal tissue. For any vegan or vegetarian not eating meat because of animal rights, or for any reason, this certainly will not encourage them to add shmeat to their diets any time soon. Just the name of shmeat sounds off-putting enough.

An arguable benefit to shmeat is that its existence will drastically cut down on the land, energy, water, and greenhouse gases produced by the meat industry. Though, what is forgotten is that shmeat is produced in a factory, which will require all the same elements in the production process. Not to mention, the fight against genetically modified food has finally taken on full strength, and by supporting shmeat research, the concern for organic, natural foods will be lost.

The threat of shmeat is looming, but it is still about another decade away from actually becoming available to the food market. At the cost of $300,000 per burger, much more funding, production efficiency, and research needs to be implemented before the public sees the meat section sign with a “sh” in front of it.

To watch the interview of Henry Fountain, New York Times journalist, discussing his “Building a $325,000 Burger” article about shmeat production, click the following link:

http://www.nytimes.com/video/2013/05/13/science/100000002223118/test-tube-burger.html?smid=tw-share

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