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When Will Scientists Grow Meat in a Petri Dish?

A handful of scientists aim to satisfy the world's growing appetite for steak without wrecking the planet. The first step: grab a petri dish
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Photograph by Kevin Van Aelst

Editor's note: This article appears in print with the title "Inside the Meat Lab."

It is not unusual for visionaries to be impassioned, if not fanatical­, and Willem van Eelen is no exception. At 87, van Eelen can look back on an extraordinary life. He was born in Indonesia when it was under Dutch control, the son of a doctor who ran a leper colony. As a teenager, he fought the Japanese in World War II and spent several years in prisoner-of-war camps. The Japanese guards used prisoners as slave labor and starved them. “If one of the stray dogs was stupid enough to go over the wire, the prisoners would jump on it, tear it apart and eat it raw,” van Eelen recalls. “If you looked at my stomach then, you saw my spine. I was already dead.” The experience triggered a lifelong obsession with food, nutrition and the science of survival.

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