Lab-grown meat was just an idea before six years ago, when Mark Post, a Dutch researcher, produced the world’s first cultured meat. The plan was simple: Instead of slaughtering animals, he produced meat through in vitro cultivation of animal cells It became cellular agriculture.
According to ZME Science, there are several reasons to pursue this line of research. Unlike the plant-based foods that are produced by manufacturers like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, it is meat, not a substitute. People can eat meat humanely, without the need to breed and slaughter animals. Additionally, lab-grown meat could help tackle the antibiotics crisis.
There are many practical hurdles that need to be overcome, but there are several promising start-ups. It is likely there will be cultured meat on the shelves being sold at competitive prices within two years.
For the first time, meat has been successfully grown in space, aboard the International Space Station. This means that in the future astronauts will be able to enjoy an endless supply of cruelty-free meat for their travels.
The research team used a technique called 3D bioprinting. Essentially, they printed 3D biological cells. The printer uses a magnetic force to fix the cells into a small, scaffold-like muscle tissue, producing meat that is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. The tissue is small, but it marks a proof of concept, showing that the futuristic meat can be grown in space.
Bovine cells were harvested from Earth and taken to the ISS using a Soyuz shuttle. The entire method relies on mimicking the muscles’ natural regeneration process, and it does not require the resources of conventional agriculture.
Didier Toubia, co-founder and chief executive of Aleph Farms, which funded the experiment and provided the equipment and cells stated, “We are proving that cultivated meat can be produced anytime, anywhere, in any condition. We can potentially provide a powerful solution to produce the food closer to the population needing it, at the exact and right time it is needed. In space, we don’t have 10,000 or 15,000 litres of water available to produce 1kg of beef.” Oleg Skripochka, a Roscosmos cosmonaut carried out the experiment.
According to recent studies, lab-created meat could prove huge reductions in meat consumption and cut the greenhouse gases. At this time, the world is eating more meat than ever.
Inverse, Industry insiders report that similarly mass-produced burgers could cost only $10. Is it possible people will make the switch?
Lab-Grown Meat: It Is What Is for Dinner!
Imagine enjoying a juicy cheeseburger that was produced without killing any cows. Scientists have been able to grow meat in a laboratory from cultured cells. The vision is coming to fruition. Several start-up companies are growing beef, pork, poultry, and seafood. Among these start-up companies are Mosa Meat, Memphis Meats. SuperMeat, and Finless Foods. Lab-grown meats are attracting millions in funding. For example, in 2017, Memphis Meats garnered $17 million from sources including Bill Gates and Cragill, an agricultural company.
If lab-grown meat, also referred to as clean meat, could eliminate most of the cruel, unethical treatment of animals raised for food, additionally, it could reduce the overwhelming environmental costs of meat production. Resources will only be needed to generate and sustain cultured cells to produce meat, instead of the entire organism from birth.
Lab-grown meat is created by taking a muscle sample from an animal. There are special technicians that collect the stem cells from tissue, multiply them dramatically and allow them to differentiate into primitive fibers that bulk up into muscle tissue. According to Mosa Meat, one tissue sample from a cow can yield enough muscle tissue to make 80,000 quarter-pounders.
Many start-ups believe they will have products for sale within the next few years. However, clean meat will have to overcome multiple barriers to become commercially viable.
Two of those obstacles are taste and cost. In 2013, a burger created from lab-grown meat was presented to journalists that cost over $300,000 to produce, and the meat was dry because there was too little fat in the burger. In 2019, Memphis Meat reported that a quarter-pound of ground beef cost $600. If clean meat continues on this trend, it could become competitive with traditional meat within several years. Taste concerns could be addressed by supplementing other ingredients while paying attention to texture.
Additionally, before receiving market approval, clean meat will have to be proven safe for human consumption. There is no reason to believe meat produced in the laboratory would pose a health hazard, however, the FDA is only now considering how it should be regulated.
Producers of traditional meat are pushing back. They argue that products generated in the laboratory are not meat and should not be labeled as such. Surveys have revealed that the public has a luke-warm interest in eating meat created in a lab. These challenges, however, are not slowing the companies creating the clean meat down. They want to realize their goal of producing authentic-tasting, affordable products. If they succeed, clean meat could change the daily eating habits to become more ethical and environmentally sustainable.
By Jeanette Smith
ZME Science: First lab-grown meat from outer space
Scientific American: Lab-Grown Meat
CBC News: Is lab-grown meat the next frontier in ethical eating?
Image Courtesy of Peter Hellberg’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License