When humans eventually colonize Mars — whether out of a sense or curiosity or the realisation we’ve got to high-tail it away from the mounting wreckage of Earth — we’ll give a lot of things up.
Beautiful mountains and ocean? No more. The ability to walk outside without a special suit on? Gone. Freshly-made hamburgers? That we might be able to salvage.
During a conversation on making meat from cell culture (essentially, growing real meat using living cells in a lab) at the New Harvest conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, North Carolina State University professor Paul Mozdiak said his Utopian vision is for humans to “grow meat as we’re travelling through the cosmos.”
“It could enable new planetary exploration and allow us to colonize other planets,” said Mozdiak, a professor in the department of poultry science who teaches a cell culture class.
We’ve already figured out how to grow certain foods in space. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are growing vegetables; in 2015, they harvested their first crop, a batch of red romaine lettuce.
Here on Earth, scientists have spent years figuring out the best way to make cruelty-free meat in a lab using animal cells. In 2013, a researcher in the Netherlands created a lab-grown hamburger, and more recently, a company called Memphis Meats unveiled a meatball made using beef cells.
But as Mozdiak’s fellow panelists emphasised, we’ve got to perfect cultured meat on earth before taking to the stars. Even Memphis Meats, which has a pretty optimistic timeline for commercial production, doesn’t expect to go mass market for another half decade.
Considering that it will be many decades before we can even think about colonizing Mars, there’s plenty of time to figure things out.
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