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Chinese scientists create ‘cultured pork’

(Global Times)    14:21, November 21, 2019

Artificial meat hamburgers are displayed for pre-sale at the September 12-25 Taobao Maker Festival in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province. It is the first time food made from artificial meat has been sold on the Chinese mainland. Photo: IC

Scientists from Nanjing Agricultural University claimed they had created China's first piece of cultured pork made of stem cells from the muscle tissue of pigs, a milestone in the industry.

"China's first piece of cultured meat was born at the center on Monday," said the National Center of Meat Quality and Safety Control of the Nanjing Agricultural University in East China's Jiangsu Province on its WeChat.

Zhou Guanghong, a leading professor of the center, led the team to get a piece of cultured pork weighing five grams after harvesting stem cells from the muscle tissue of pigs for 20 days. The team created China's first piece of cultured meat made from animal stem cells, a milestone in the field, according to the WeChat account.

An official from the university's publicity department confirmed the achievement with the Global Times on Wednesday, adding it is pending a view from experts.

The achievement excited many Chinese netizens who expect pork prices driven up by African swine fever to drastically drop in the future.

However, some agricultural experts believe there is still a long way for such faux meat to be served on Chinese tables, and warned that they may not be an ideal meat substitute over food safety concerns and health risks.

Many people hailed the achievement for its environmental friendliness, saying that cultured meat helps end cruelty to animals. But some speculated about the taste and possible health risks.

The topic "China's first cultured meat is born" has attracted 40 million views on Sina Weibo as of press time.

The Chinese scientists' achievement came after two US plant-based food companies, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, are taking over its fast food chains with their meat-free burgers made of pea or soy protein.

In China, domestic companies have also started selling plant-based faux meat. Chinese food production company Jinzi Ham started to sell a box of two pieces (220 grams) of "beef" plant-based pie at 60 yuan ($8.60) on Tmall, Alibaba's online marketplace in October. The prices were almost four times that of actual meat.

According to the Jinzi Ham flagship store on Tmall, there have been almost 700 online orders as of Wednesday.

Zhu Yi, an associate professor of food security and nutrition at China Agricultural University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday that compared with plant-based faux meat, the taste of faux meat made of animal stem cells could be much closer to real meat.

But the two types of faux meat have health risks, as cancer cells may be formed during cell division when harvesting animal stem cells for cultured meat, and the plant-based faux meat which have been over-processed in its production could result in higher risks of cardiovascular diseases than real meat, Zhu said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Shi Xi, Bianji)

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