Have it your way

Global warming could be controlled if we all became vegetarians and stopped eating meat. That’s the view of physicist Alan Calverd, who thinks adopting a vegetarian diet would do more for the environment than burning less oil and gas.


“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun.” – Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s franchise




Global warming could be controlled if we all became vegetarians and stopped eating meat. That’s the view of British physicist Alan Calverd, who thinks that giving up burgers would do more for the environment than burning less oil and gas. Writing exclusively in Physics World, Calvert calculates that the animals we eat emit 21% of all the carbon dioxide that can be attributed to human activity.



We could therefore slash man-made emissions of carbon dioxide simply by abolishing all livestock. Moreover, there would be no adverse effects to health and it would be an experiment that we could abandon at any stage.



I’m sure there are many representatives from several fast food chains that would dearly love to meet Mr. Calverd one dark evening underneath the arches to set him right about his errant ways [and some farmers too! – Ed].



Red meat is, after all, good for you! Not only is it a super source of protein, it’s especially high in iron! And the haem iron it contains is much more readily absorbed by the human body than the weedy iron found in plant products.



So, to protect the environment, we shouldn’t just stop eating meat, but simply find a better way to grow it.



And I’m glad to say that one fella who agrees with me is Jason Matheny at the University of Maryland. He’s proposed two new tissue engineering techniques that may one day lead to affordable production of lab grown meat for human consumption.



The first is to grow the cells in large flat sheets on thin membranes. The sheets of meat would be grown and stretched, then removed from the membranes and stacked on top of one another to increase thickness.



The other method would be to grow the muscle cells on small three-dimensional beads that stretch with small changes in temperature. The mature cells could then be harvested and turned into a processed meat, like nuggets or hamburgers.



To grow meat on a large scale, cells from several different kinds of tissue, including muscle and fat, would be needed to give the meat the texture to appeal to the human palate.



If he can pull it off, there would be a lot of benefits from cultured meat. Most meats are high in the fatty acid Omega 6, which can cause high cholesterol and other health problems. If you make the meat yourself though, you could replace that with Omega 3, which is healthier.



But Matheny says that many challenges lie ahead. He believes that one of the biggest ones is how to get the texture of the meat right – and the only way to do that, he says, is to figure out how to ‘exercise’ the muscle cells by stretching them the same way a live animal would.



Maybe though, he’s making far too big an issue out of this texture thing. After all, when did the texture of their food ever bother the ‘chefs’ at McDonalds or Burger King?


Dave Wilson
Editor
The Engineer Online