For most people, the phrase “homegrown” beef conjures up images of a herd of steer in the back yard, slaughtering a few of them and perhaps having a mega barbecue out back. Yet, according to an article published in July 2006 issue of Discover Magazine, biologist Vladimir Mironov envisioned a more sci-fi approach involving the use of a “coffeemaker-like” device that could turn muscle stem cells of livestock animals into steaks, virtually overnight.
The reasoning behind the project ranged from providing humans “healthier food” to protecting animals from inhumane treatment at large livestock plants, as well as reducing damage to the environment. And while it may have looked good on paper, even gaining support from PETA in the form of a $25,000 grant, the project was eventually shut down by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston in 2011 due to a “series of issues.”
It should be noted that Dr. Mironov was the tissue engineer responsible for creating edible in vitro chicken while at the school in 2009. He was also a founding member of New Harvest, whose mission is to produce agricultural products from living or formerly live cells.
At the time of his dismissal by MUSC, Vladimir Mironov had anticipated being named director of a new Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Center in the Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology at MUSC, However the fact that he had been more than vocal about “not receiving enough financial support for his lab or enough input into how the grant was being used,” put many members of the board off.
In the meantime, Mark Post, chair of the physiology department at Maastricht University, The Netherlands recently told Discover that, although he shares Mironov’s “optimism” about the ability to produce in-vitro meat to feed humanity, it is far from being commercially pragmatic. In fact, he cited that his own lab-produced meat “ cost $325,000 per burger” when it was introduced during a noted taste test in London back in 2013.
Still, they hope to eventually be able to ramp up factory production using “massive bioreactors” in order to bring costs down to about $10 per cell-grown patty within the next 4-5 years. Even if they are successful, this type of production would not make it viable for mass consumption. It would also require major new health regulations before it could be marketable to the masses.
Although his vision for in-vitro meat remains intact, most of Mironov’s work since his days at MUSC have been devoted to developing 3-D bio-printing for organ replacement for a Russian firm.