FunCan we ever do without cows?

Can we ever do without cows?

Some bioengineering experts believe that in the future we may stop slaughtering animals for food, clothing, or making medical products , such as collagen and insulin. The idea is this: instead of killing a cow to eat a steak, we could grow it in a laboratory using protein. To do this, we would only need a few muscle cells from a good specimen. Once the fabric production process started, it would be unstoppable. The numbers driving the drivers of this technique are staggering: thousands of tons of meat could be produced in two months.

But to achieve this, it is necessary to solve some important problems: cell division must take place at an adequate rate and in a culture medium with the optimal mixture of nutrients and growth factors; also that bioreactors efficiently distribute what each cell needs, something that blood vessels do in the body. In addition, you have to ensure that that ribeye has the right texture, flavor and smell. And there is the issue of price. In 2013, a team of physiologists from the University of Maastricht presented the first synthetic hamburger. Its cost was around 250,000 euros.

These are some products that can already be obtained without the need to eliminate animals.


Different companies investigate the production of synthetic meat. For example, the firm Memphis Meats has obtained meatballs from animal cells. However, the products that have been achieved so far are of lower quality than the natural ones .


The Modern Meadow company uses cow cells to grow collagen sheets that are then tanned and cut. With them, leather jackets or belts are made. Among the objectives of the Australian initiative Tissue and Art Project is the obtaining of the so-called ‘ victimless leather’ , which consists of manufacturing a garment of this material without skinning animals.


Experts from the Muufri company add cow DNA into yeast cells to obtain milk proteins. Then they add calcium and potassium, emulsify the mixture, and voilà!


Vaccine insulin can cause allergic reactions, but at MIT they work on a synthetic insulin that is activated when sugar levels are high.


A group of Swedish biologists have used bioengineering to produce cartilage tissue for human joints using cells from the knee of the cow.


The animal origin can elicit a response from our immune system, but the synthetic KOD, from Rice University (USA), lacks the bovine genes: it does not cause rejection.

Image: Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia / CC

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