Meat grown in the lab
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shematIn the quest to create meat without actually harming animals, scientists (who fondly refer to themselves as "tissue engineers") are diligently working so that one day in the not so distance future, you can have a serving of shmeat on your dinner plate.

Shmeat (also known as cultured meat, hydroponic meat, test-tube meat, vat-grown meat, victimless meat and vitro meat) is the nickname given to lab created meat grown from a cell culture of animal tissue. The process is pretty straight forward and the process is similar to how scientists already grow patches of human skin.

Cells are harvested from a live animal, such as a chicken, pig or cow. The cells are then placed in a special solution of nutrients which mimics the qualities of blood. This nutrient solution will help the cells to multiply where they can then be secured to a spongy sheet which has been soaked with nutrient solution. The sheet is then stretched to increase cell size and protein content. It's from the combination of this "sheet meat" that shmeat derives its name.

While still years off from finding its way into your local supermarket, shmeat has progressed far enough to where tissue engineers are now looking for funding and founding start-ups in an attempt to get shmeat into your grocery store as soon as possible. They envision that shmeat will one day be harvested in vast quantities with it being an affordable, nutritious and appetizing alternative to what currently goes into processed meats such as hot dogs and chicken nuggets (you really don't want to know what they are made of).

PETA is also a fan of shmeat and is currently offering a $1 million prize to the first manufacturer and marketer of lab created chicken meat to encourage further research of shmeat. Not only would shmeat reduce the number of animals that people would need to raise and kill for food, those that have been working with shmeat believe that one day it could greatly reduce world hunger while being better for the environment and human health.

Here are some of the positive attributes that tissue engineers say that shmeat will someday be able to provide:

Help fight world hunger: With predictions of continued huge increases in human population growth, shmeat could be a low cost, high volume resource for the world to meet its protein needs. Theoretically, all it would take is a single animal cell to eventually provide tons and tons of shmeat.

Reduce animal cruelty: Currently we get most of our meat from the factory farming of animals which is not much fun for the animals. This is why PETA endorses shmeat - if people are going to continue to eat meat, then shmeat is a way to provide it without raising animals for the sole purpose of killing them to feed humans. Shmeat has the potential to greatly reduce the need of factory farming of animals.

Help the environment: Shmeat would actually help the environment in a number of ways by reducing the need for factory farming of animals. Factory farming uses great amounts of resources including fossil fuels, causing both air and water pollution and causing enormous amounts of greenhouse gases. While it will take energy to produce shmeat as well, it should be a fraction of what factory farming uses with the ability to produce more.

Provide a healthier diet: Shmeat will actually be healthier for people than regular meat. Since it is being grown, the tissue engineers have the ability to control such things as shmeat's fat content and they could add nutrients that are better for us such as Omega 3 fatty acids. Shmeat would also be free of the many things that people don't like about their current meat such as hormones and antibiotics. It would also be disease free since the process would guarantee it came without salmonella, e-coli or Mad Cow disease.

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