A lamb chop fresh from the lab

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 13:41 27/05/2014
Dr Mike Nichols
Fairfax NZ
LAB BURGERS: Massey University retired horticulture senior lecturer Dr Mike Nichols says his overseas travels suggest meat will come from laboratories in the future.

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A retired Massey University horticulture senior lecturer says meat will come from the laboratory in future, putting New Zealand's grazing systems at risk.

Dr Mike Nichols went to a conference in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and said it was disconcerting to learn it was possible to "grow" a perfectly acceptable hamburger patty in the laboratory from plant-derived raw materials.

He said fillet steak and lamb chops of acceptable taste, flavour and texture were not far away.

"In fact, the ‘real' thing will be created using animal stem cells to provide the basic structure of protein, fat and bone."

Nichols said this would be some way off, as stem cells were expensive.

"It's not cheap, but it does move away from the expensive grazing animal.

"My feeling is it is 'the' future, not 'a' future."

He said growing meat in laboratories was something New Zealand needed to be aware of.

"Big multinationals, such as McDonald's, will be watching this and putting up funds. And meat designed in laboratories would pull the rug out from underneath people concerned about animal welfare."

Nichols has also been in central China, in Wuhan at a conference on the grafting of vegetable seedlings, and at a conference in Shanghai.

He said delegates looked at greenhouse use. "In Shanghai, they are modern. Growers tend to buy the latest greenhouses from the Netherlands, and it's good technology, but there isn't a full understanding of how it works."

Nichols said growers were often shown how to use a greenhouse but there were gaps in knowledge.

In Shanghai, he and other delegates saw tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums and strawberries being grown hydroponically.

He said there were many greenhouses in Wuhan but the crops were grown in the ground.

"They were 20 years out of date. They were growing in the soil. Most people grow [crops] hydroponically under plastic."

Lettuce and watermelons were two crops he saw grown in the ground under shelter.

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