Where's The Beef?

Sizzlin' steak from a petri dish? That concept is cooking in the Labs of the Medical University of South Carolina.

CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson meets a scientist who says he can grow real burgers from just a few cells from a live animal.

Russian tissue engineer Vladimir Miranov is making the claim.

"It's actually eatable cells," Miranov says.

He's only been growing the cells for five days. But all it takes is a few more days in a bioreactor at 100 degrees.

"Wash all this stuff, place this in microwave and after five minutes you have hamburger," Miranov says.

Jason Matheny is a doctoral student who's published ideas for test-tube meat on large scale – tissue grown in thin sheets, then "exercised," stretched, and layered. Scientists could control every molecule.

"You have a cleaner, healthier product," Matheny says.

Doesn't it sound a little gross?

"I mean, we'd get the taste of meat and many of its nutritional qualities but without the risks of heart disease, without the risks of salmonella… and other food born illnesses," Matheny says.

We wanted to ask a real cattleman what he thinks about beef grown by scientists in a lab instead of farmers. So we came to Llangollen farms in Virginia.

John Wilkens is intrigued by his future competition – even though they're talking about prime rib without the rib.

"T-bone without the bone," Wilkens says.

But this beef man insists there's no reason to turn farming over to scientists.

"Beef as it exists today is a very safe product," Wilkens says. "To me, a rack of ribs sounds a whole lot tastier."

We can't know for sure. They haven't actually made whole burgers yet, and no taste-testing is allowed in the lab. The project needs serious funding before it can get to the butcher.

But Miranov says that as soon as he gets money, it will be the meat of the future.

So while test tube meat may not be the end of the road for animal farms anytime soon, it is something to chew on.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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