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Stem-cell sausage: Is Porky Pig obsolete?

In case you missed this groundbreaking news last week, MSNBC reported that Dutch researchers are on their way to producing "pork in a petri dish." This can only enhance the lowest of the Low Countries' already towering status as a ham exporter.

Grown in the lab from stem cells isolated from pig muscle, such biochemical-cured cold cuts may (it is wildly speculated) someday help solve perceived problems from global warming and water shortages to world hunger and cruelty to animals.

Several other groups in the U.S., Scandinavia and Japan are also researching ways to make meat in the laboratory, but the Dutch are out in front:

Their main problem is reproducing the protein content in regular meat: In livestock meat, protein makes up about 99 percent of the product; the lab meat is only about 80 percent protein. The rest is mostly water and nucleic acids.

None of the researchers have actually eaten the lab-made meat yet, the report notes. That suggests we may want to exercise some caution. On the other hand, could a lab-slab-burger - and hold the agar, please - really be that much worse than textured-protein soyburgers?

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