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Piglet, rejoice: Scientific team in the Netherlands produces in vitro pork (sort of)

December 2, 2009 |  3:00 pm

Piglet

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction or, depending on where you stand on the tastiness of meat, nightmares. But, according to the Times of London, it's true: A group of scientists in the Netherlands has successfully grown a product vaguely resembling pork in a petri dish. 

The scientists took cells obtained from the muscle of a live pig and incubated them in a solution derived from the blood of animal fetuses, which allowed the original cells to multiply and form a substance that isn't quite meat -- but it's close. (The research team hopes to create a synthetic substitute to be used in place of the blood-product solution in the future.)

No one has yet tasted the resulting material, which "at the moment is rather like wasted muscle tissue," Mark Post of Eindhoven University, the leader of the scientific team, told The Times. Not exactly appetizing, but Post added that the team plans to work to improve the product's consistency. The team expects that it could lead to lab-grown sausages and other in vitro meat products in as few as five years.

The scientists' research is funded in part by the Dutch government as well as by a commercial sausage manufacturer. It follows similar research funded by NASA a few years ago, in which cells from turkeys and goldfish were successfully cultured in a lab.

Famously, PETA announced earlier this year that it would pay $1 million to any scientist who was able to produce an in vitro chicken-meat product that "has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh" and could be produced in "large enough quantities to be sold commercially, and successfully [sold] at a competitive price in at least 10 states" by June 30, 2012. 

"People are surprised to learn that PETA is interested in lab-grown meat, but we have overcome our own revulsion at flesh-eating to champion a breakthrough that will mean a far kinder world for animals," said the group's president and co-founder, Ingrid Newkirk.

RELATED:
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Florida College Republicans group hosts meaty barbeque to protest PETA

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A man dressed in a pig suit meant to symbolize swine flu gestures during a performance in a market in Kiev, Ukraine, last month. Credit: Sergei Supinsky / AFP/Getty Images

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