Why have we been able to clone animals since the 90s, but lab-grown meat is still just an emerging technology?



How come we have been able to clone animals for 25 years but I cant get a lab-grown burger yet?

In: Biology

Cloning doesn’t create a fully grown animal from nothing. It just creates an embryo that with the DNA of an existing animal. This embryo still needs to be implanted into the uterus of a living creature and develop like any other fetus.

First of all, Cloning remains a somewhat controversial process. And lab-grown meat is different. The point of lab-grown meat is to be able to have the meat without having to have the whole animal first. And making just one specific part of an animal is a whole different ballgame from cloning, which pretty much just involves the normal process of birthing an animal except the animal is an identical clone instead of a normally fertilized egg

The lamb-clonings of the 90s actually weren’t terribly successful, even though a few specimens were birthed they suffered from a lot of cellular-level health issues that we’ve only started to understand recently. It’s also not really a related process, since the 90s “clones” were more like test-tube babies than something wholly artificially grown.

But to answer your question: The goal of lab-grown meat is to engineer *just* the muscle tissue, not the entire creature. The idea is to make just the part of the animal we eat, sparing us the cruelty of having to slaughter an animal and potentially saving tons of money spent nurturing livestock.

Cloning would be a very wasteful way to try to achieve lab-grown meat, and would still be as ethically-fraught as how we obtain meat now.

If you could somehow clone an animal, but leave out most of its brain, skeleton, and fur then we’d be in pretty good shape… making skinless monstrosities to eat.

Making lab grown meat, making lab grown meat cost effectively, and making lab grown meat that tastes right cost effectively are three very different things

Companies have grown muscles in a lab and someone even tested a lab grown burger, but they’re far from cost effective.

You won’t see lab grown meat in stores until it’s a few dollars per pound. It’s currently a few thousand per pound so while it exists it’s far from commercially viable

It’s the difference between solar panels and growing trees to burn wood to make electricity.
We want the electricity now, on top of a roof instead of a large forest, without expenses other than the initial buy.

Similarly, we want to grow meat directly; like any other synthetic material. Not to wait for years while the animal grows, consuming metric tons of grass and water and occupying a large space during all that time.

When you clone, you grow the whole organism in a completely natural way, it gestates inside a surrogate mother and gets born, like every other animal. When you lab-grow meat, it’s not a whole organism, it’s isolated tissue, and you need to somehow imitate the organs that nourish this tissue: something to replace the heart pumping blood through it, something to replace the intestines providing new proteins and fats for it, something to replace the kidneys that remove the bad stuff from it.