Inside the meat lab: the future of food

From Global development | The Guardian Sat Jan 5 2013, 23:30:00

With billions of mouths to feed, we can't go on producing food in the traditional way. Scientists are coming up with novel ways to cater for future generations. In-vitro burger, anyone?

The future feast is laid out around a cool white room at Eindhoven's University of Technology . There is a steak tartare of in-vitro beef fibre, wittily knitted into the word "meat". There are "fruit-meat" amuse-gueules. The green- and pink-striped sushi comes from a genetically modified vegetarian fish called the biccio that, usefully, has green- and pink-striped flesh. To wash this down, there's a programmable red wine: with a microwave pulse you can turn it into anything from Montepulciano to a Syrah. For the kids, there are sweet fried crickets, programmable colas and "magic meatballs". These are made from animal-friendly artificial meat grown from stem cells: packed with Omega 3 and vitamins, they "crackle in your mouth". Yum.

None of this is quite ready to dish up. The meatballs at the Eindhoven future food show are made from Plasticine; the knitted steak, appropriately, from pinky-red wool. But the ideas aren't fantasy. Koert van Mensvoort, assistant professor at the university, calls them "nearly possible". Van Mensvoort - who is also the brains behind nextnature.net, a must-see website for technological neophiliacs - put his industrial design undergraduates together with bio-tech engineers, marketing specialists and a moral philosopher, tasking them to come up with samples of food that is, technologically, already on our doorstep.

The truth, though, is that artificial steak is still a way off. Pizza toppings are closer. The star of the Dutch research into in-vitro meat, Dr Mark Post, promised ...

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