March 9th, 2011
Episode 40 of 587 episodes
It doesn't look like the start of a food revolution, but small scraps of pig muscle tissue growing in a Dutch laboratory might be just that. Professor Mark Post and his research team at the University of Maastricht are the first to have persuaded cells taken from the muscle fibres of a live pig to grow in dishes in a laboratory. With increasing pressure on food supply and growing criticism of meat as an inefficient and environmentally costly form of nutrition, Geoff Watts looks at the science behind the idea of growing artificial meat. Geoff visits Maastricht in Holland to see the muscle tissue being grown. It’s on a small scale at the moment, and is limited by cost and production techniques. Professor Post is optimistic about scaling up production, but he can’t predict how long it will take to transform the present short, thin strips of tissue into something with the texture and taste of real meat. Geoff also talks to meat expert Professor Jeff Wood at the University of Bristol. Jeff says that the flavour of meat is every bit as complicated and subtle as tasting wine. He’s sceptical that an artificial product can ever be as tasty and satisfying as the real thing. Mark Post accepts that producing meat in a lab doesn’t compare to raising live animals. But unless large numbers of people change their eating habits, artificial meat production might become a case of "needs must".