Laboratory Meat

Cooked meat medium for anaerobic bacteria
Albaraa Mehdar, via Flickr

Would you eat meat that didn’t come from an animal? Liz Waid and Joshua Leo tell about scientists who aren’t growing meat on a farm, but in a laboratory!

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Imagine that you are sitting down to eat dinner with your family. Today’s meal is slow-cooked meat and vegetables. This stew is warm and smells very good. However, there is something different about it. No animals were killed to make this meal. The meat does not come from an animal. Instead, it is from a laboratory. Would you still eat this dinner?

Voice 2 

This may sound like a strange idea but it is a real possibility. Scientists have been working to grow meat “in vitro,” or in a laboratory, for many years. You may have heard another Spotlight program about in vitro meat. That program looked at a $1,000,000 award. The organization, PETA, offered this award. The award is for the creation of good-tasting in vitro chicken meat. No one has received PETA’s award yet. However, scientists in the Netherlands have recently made a small amount of in vitro meat. Today’s Spotlight program is about in vitro meat - both its problems and advantages for the future.

Voice 1 

Scientists in the Netherlands have been working for years to develop in vitro meat. In the laboratory, they mix cells from a horse and a pig. They feed the cells a solution full of necessary nutrients. And they provide the cells with light to help them grow. The cells increase in number and grow into a small piece of muscle or meat. However, food and light is not enough. In vitro meat also needs exercise.

Voice 2 

Imagine a cow. It walks each day in the field. This exercise helps its muscles grow bigger and stronger. If the cow did not walk, its muscles would become smaller and weaker. And this cow would provide poor meat. In the same way, scientists must also exercise in vitro meat to keep it growing. This exercise will also make it feel and taste like real meat. So, scientists exercise the meat in two ways - by stretching it and shocking it with electricity.

Voice 1 

Right now, the meat that scientists have made is very small. It is only a few centimeters long and one centimeter wide. It is also not the same color as animal meat. Instead, it is grey.  This is because in vitro meat does not need blood to grow. And blood is what gives meat its color. But scientists hope to make in vitro meat look more like real meat in the future.

Voice 2 

The way in vitro meat looks is not its only problem. Right now, it takes a long time for the meat to grow. And scientists do not know how to make a large amount. It also costs a lot of money to make in vitro meat. Making enough for one meal would cost $250,000. However, as scientists continue to produce more in vitro meat, they hope cost will go down. They also hope that someday people will be able to buy it in their local market.

Voice 1 

Producing in vitro meat has many problems. However scientists continue to work because in vitro meat would have many advantages. Michael Specter is a writer for The New Yorker magazine. He told National Public Radio:

Voice 3 

“We have 7 billion people on the planet...Those people need food. They need the healthy substance protein - and they will eat better as they get wealthier. And better, sadly, means more like Americans - a lot of meat. And a lot of meat means a lot of water, a lot of grain, a lot of grass. And we do not have that much room for any of it.”

Voice 2 

Producing more and more animal meat will negatively affect the environment. Today, much of the world’s meat is produced on large “factory farms.” These farms raise many, many cows for meat. The cows need a lot of land. Often, there are thousands of cows in a small area of land. It is not a good life for the cows either. They do not get to go into the fields and do not have room to walk around very much. These cows also eat a lot of grain. And it takes a lot of land to grow the grain. Many people believe the earth cannot support such a demand on land. In vitro meat can help lower the demand on the earth’s resources.

Voice 1 

The process of raising animals for meat also produces a lot of gases that are damaging to the environment. In some parts of the world, animal meat travels a long way from the farm to the dinner table. In fact, the transportation process begins even before the animal farm.

Voice 2 

First, a grain farmer has to harvest and transport grain from his fields. Then, an animal farmer transports the grain to his farm to feed the animals and keep them healthy. Next, a truck driver transports the animals to a slaughter house - where the animals are killed. And finally, another truck driver transports the cut meat to the market where people can buy it. Trucks release the harmful gas, carbon dioxide, during every step of this long process. And this creates a lot of problems for the environment.

Voice 1 

However, animals produce a lot of harmful gas themselves. In fact, cows produce a lot of methane - a gas that is even more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. Nick Collins is a science writer for the Telegraph newspaper. He says:

Voice 4 

“Moving the production of meat from farms to laboratories would also help reduce the huge amount of damaging gases released by farm animals. At the same time, laboratories would use 99% less land than farms.”

Voice 2

In vitro meat could solve many of the problems of animal meat. But can humans eat this in vitro meat? Scientists do not know if it even tastes like real meat. Because of food research laws, they are not yet able to taste their meat. But they have hope. They argue that it is real meat and it is just made in a different way.

Voice 1 

A lot of people are still worried about in vitro meat. However, it will be years before the meat is ready to sell. Kate Shepard is a writer for Mother Jones magazine. She says,

Voice 5 

“It will require hard testing before it can be fed to humans. It is still such a new idea that we do not know yet what health concerns it may have. Right now, there are no rules for in vitro meat.”

Voice 2 

What do you think about in vitro meat? Would you eat this meat? Do you think it is a good idea? You can email us your thoughts at

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Dianna Anderson. The producer was Robin Basselin. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at This program is called “Laboratory Meat”.

Voice 2       

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Do you eat meat? Would you eat meat that was grown in a laboratory and did not harm any animals?


humble71's avatar
said on November 03, 2011

Well I think we are too many people right now in the world 7,000 millions ...and we’ll be more in the next 10 years…the idea is reasonable and no crazy…
  I’ve never heard about this invention but it has its advantages like to protect the environment from harmful gasses like carbon dioxide and methane and farmers won’t use a lot of field area .

I won’t eat this meat but if I have to protect the planet I could eat it only if it has the guarantees to be sold in a supermarket…I would like the meat could have a little blood ...I hope the scientists can work in it..

Then it’s a crazy idea but I think is necessary to provide artificial meat to millions of millions of people around the world..

Thanks Dianna Anderson for this interesting program.


Augusto Lenin

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 07, 2011

In vitro meat! I’m surprise about it! It’s a good idea but I think it not so good! In a few years, with research of scientist, in vitro meat will sell in another area all over the world. As we can buy them into the supermarket and its taste is very yummy! I wish…
Environment will be pure and good for health!
It’s a good idea but to be the truth is very far!
Nguyen Truc

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said on November 21, 2012

We have a possibilty to change a way to eat meat, would be interesting to test this meat
Every day we are more and more in the planet therefore must have others manners to survive, but this system about vitro meat is expensive.

Bye friends

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Rain Bows
said on November 21, 2012

Hi Spotlight,
I don’t think in vitro meat is a good idea, because if it is right that we safe some resources,
we are using some other resources for that in vitro meat and it will also cause waste and contamination.
What we should do is eat vegetables protein for example, for those people who can’t buy animal protein.
The world is collapsing because we create so many stuff that does not help the environment.
We don’t need in vitro meat, if we want to do something is finding natural solutions.
Greetings to everyone.

Luis Piedra's avatar
Luis Piedra
said on November 21, 2012

Scientists have much work by ahead.
His investigations are result of much effort.
Good article.
Thanks Spotlight.

Long Pham's avatar
Long Pham
said on November 21, 2012

I think this is new idea that we need to reference, but it would not be good or bad for our health and convenience, Have to recognized that in vitro meat was new inventions of scientists, help to reduce the situation lack of food humans in the future. You think, someday, the world will lack of natural food, we have to concern for artifical food, because it help to humans survival.

Thanks the program.

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said on August 14, 2018

Yes. I’m crazy for meat. I like chicken, pork, fish and ox. We, Brazilians, have the custom to eat barbecue in every family events and I like very much to manage the grill in this events. I don’t think the creation of animals for food is more hurtful to enviroment than cars moved with diesel, for instance. The intensivelly use of plastics is more harmful than a hord of oxes…
I will never eat meat made in laboratory, it’s the most true I can say.

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Le Tuoi
said on September 25, 2019

I don’t think vitro meat can replace real meat from animals. What about harmful gas for production process vitro meat in the laboratory? We can build biogas cellars to produce gas for cooking or instead of gas or wood. So we can reduce environmental pollution.
It will be great if we can use all both ways.
Best regards.