The secret ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine? Ground-up cockroach. Many farmers in China are turning to one of the world’s most reviled bugs to make big bucks. They’re cheap to feed (they live on rotting vegetables), easy to kill (dunk them in boiling water) and easy to store (dry them in the sun). Farmers are making a healthy profit selling the roaches to researchers studying whether the pulverized insects can be used to cure baldness, AIDS and cancer. They also wind up as fish food and even, sometimes, as deep-fried snacks for humans.
Read more about roach ranching at the LA Times.
Just when the oceans seem to be emptying of everything except jellyfish and microbial goo, a surprising finding has emerged from the Gulf of Maine: over the last decade, lobster stocks have been booming. This formerly white-tablecloth food is now so abundant that even local convenience stores are installing lobster tanks. While the health of lobster stocks is in part due to the famously successful Maine lobster management plan, there’s other factors at work that might dampen your enthusiasm for these big red crustaceans.
The idea of “disembodied” meat, whether grown from trees or in the lab, has been around for at least a century – if not way longer. The medieval notion of the “vegetable lamb of Tartary”, a live sheep that sprouts from a plant, could be thought of as the great-granddaddy of “victimless” meat. However, the idea of truly in vitro meat had to wait for the invention of cell culture. No doubt French surgeon Alexis Carrell pondered taking a nibble of an immortal drumstick when he created an “immortal” chicken heart cell line in 1912.
Perhaps the earliest explicit mentions of cultured meat comes from British statesman Frederick Edwin Smith. In 1930, Smith predicted that “it will no longer be necessary to go to the extravagant length of rearing a bullock in order to eat its steak. From one ‘parent’ steak of choice tenderness it will be possible to grow as large and as juicy a steak as can be desired.” Winston Churchill famously echoed this sentiment only two years later. According to Technovelty, in vitro meat made its first appearance in fiction in 1952. Since then, sci-fi authors have described inspiring, bizarre and uncanny speculative meat futures. Click through for some of the most evocative…
Next Nature is continuing the tradition of visionary lab-grown meat speculation: Support our crowdfunding campaign for the world’s first in vitro meat cookbook!
At the end of his TED talk, tissue engineer and entrepreneur Andras Forgacs receives presumably the very first standing ovation on the TED stage for a speaker arguing that lab grown meat and leather is a civilized way to move beyond slaughtering animals for hamburgers and handbags.
Forgacs is the co-founder and CEO of Modern Meadow, a company developing novel biomaterials. These include cultured meat and leather which, as they put it, “will require no animal slaughter and much lower inputs of land, water, energy and chemicals”.
According to Forgacs, bioengineered victimless leather is a gateway towards the acceptance of bioengineering meat. Could be, yet before we can decide if we will ever be willing to eat bioengineered meat, we need to explore the food culture it will bring us.
Egyptian authorities detained a stork last week on suspicion of espionage, mistaking its migration tag for spying equipment. In fact the stork was innocent – like a number of other animals falsely accused over the years of undercover work.
Big Data has made it into the bird-watching world. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird app allows scientists and citizens to record sightings to a form a vast, real-time map of bird populations and species across the globe. Far from being a niche product, the app is hugely successful in the birding world: Users logged more than 5.6 million observations in May alone, with the number increasing every month.
Unlike traditional methods of tallying birds, eBird makes sharing and recording sightings with scientists easy. Its instantaneous aspect addressed the day-to-day distribution of creatures that are, by definition, highly mobile. EBird has already proven its scientific mettle: ornithologists now know that the US has two genetically distinct groups of orchard orioles, and that the population of Eastern meadowlarks is in decline, suggesting that meadow ecosystems themselves are in trouble.
Chef Bun Lai of Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut, has a cheeky solution to invasive species: he eats them. His menu regularly features lionfish and Asian shore crabs, neither of which are native to the East coast of the US. Lai’s not afraid to get his hands dirty either: watch him go snorkeling for invasive seaweed and turn it into tasty soup here. According to Lai, these seaweeds “are much more nutritious than any farmed animal flora or fauna than you could possibly buy”.
For those who “eat meat, but don’t like in-vitro meat, because it is so unnatural”. Please spend 5 min to watch this video and change your thinking.
Thanks Arnoud, Thanks Ehsan.