The meat of the future will likely be lab-grown. Compared to conventional methods of getting meat on the table, lab-grown meat debuted in 2013. It doesn’t involve the slaughtering of animals or requires as many environmental resources.
Meat is considered an essential, necessary part of the diet, and people would typically eat it almost once a day. Meal alternatives have been for hundreds of years, all based on plants. Recently, science has accelerated the creation of artificial meat-like substances using plants. There have been huge advances in creating artificial meat-like substances with plants within the last couple of years.
What is the future of lab-grown meat? Recently science and tech have uncovered the way to make lab-grown meat. It is created in a manufacturing facility made from the same cells that actual meat from an animal. They’re animal cell-based meat rather than plant cell meat. It’s sometimes called clean meat because it doesn’t require death.
The future of meat technology
Cell-cultured meat isn’t a veggie burger or the bleeding plant-based proteins like the impossible burger. It’s actual meat. Startups in the US, UK, Israel, Netherlands, Japan, and China are racing to get this technology to market and people’s dinner tables.
On August 5th, 2013, Dutch scientist Mark Post presented the first cell-cultured hamburger. The product wasn’t perfect. It didn’t look or taste like a normal hamburger, costing $330,000. But it was a promising start.
Doctor Post’s Burger told the world that sustainable, scalable, slaughter-free, antibiotic-free meat might be possible. That could be game-changing for the planet. The world demands more meat yearly, and large-scale animal production, so-called factory farms, have raced to meet that demand but not without environmental consequences.
In the US, 70% of all medically necessary antibiotics are sold on animals. Even with these large-scale farm operations, demand for meat is set to outpace production. In March, the USDA and FDA agreed to oversee cell-based meat products from early growth to packaged products.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supported the regulations, and Josh says they’re also a win for the cell-cultured meat industry. There needs to be a regulatory framework for the biggest customers globally and consumers to feel comfortable with this. The goal is to feed millions of people. This is only the first step in the battle to get cultured meat to market.
- According to UN projections, the world population will reach 9.8 billion by 2050. The consumption of meat products will rise by 76%, which will be covered by cultural meat.
The agreement between the USDA and FDA hasn’t announced how these products will be labeled. The conventional meat industry is very reticent to let these sell poultry meat companies call their products “meat.”
To produce one kilogram of beef, it takes six and a half kilos of crops, 15,000 liters of water, and 550 days. About 330 square meters of land emits over 16 kilos of CO2 and half a kilo of methane, a greenhouse gas. That is equivalent to another 10 kilos of CO2, and that’s for one kilo of beef.
All meat doesn’t come from animals. It comes from plants. There are two ways to do this.
- One is with meat analogues or substitutes.
- The other one is cultured or synthetic meat.
Meat analogues: Meat analogues are plant-based meat. Imitations, usually soy protein isolates or soy flour and gluten, are used as the foundation of dough transformed by extrusion or fiber spinning into something resembling meat.
The veggie industry has perfected this art of meat imitation. An “Impossible Food” is a Californian company that produces the impossible burger made with a delicious solely plant-based meat analogue. Now maybe Jeremy Clarkson isn’t the biggest meat connoisseur out there.
Cultured meat: Cultured meat is actual meat, only that instead of growing it along with hair, bones, and skin, as is the traditional way. Scientists are growing it separately in a controlled lab environment. Theoretically, you’ve ever tasted the perfect steak because they can control every aspect, from nutrition to growth speed and movement.
There is no need for antibiotics in a perfect lab environment, one of the biggest problems in factory farming today. Cultured meat is produced using many of the same tissue engineering techniques traditionally used in regenerative medicine.
Cultured meat could be produced with up to 96% lower greenhouse gas emissions, 45% less lucid energy, 99% lower land use, and 96% less water than conventional meat. The world’s first cultured burger was created in 2013. They are changing the shape of the future.
Meat making process
Some people will find the idea of making meat in a laboratory a little bit of Frankenstein-like sci-fi for them to handle. Currently, the most successful method involves harvesting stem cells from cows. First, a small biopsy is taken from the muscle of an animal. Technicians will dissect the tissue and extract Myosatellite cells and muscle stem cells. These are cultured in a growth solution containing amino acids and carbohydrates. They are allowed to grow as they would inside an animal.
Stem cells are the building blocks of essentially everything from muscles to organs. Muscle tissue is harvested from the live animal in what is said to be a harmless, painless procedure. The tissue comprises muscle and fat cells, which the scientists separate. The trillions of newly grown muscle cells naturally merge to form tubes. Tiny muscle fibers have been placed in a ring of gel that acts a bit like scaffolding for the developing tissue.
Cell culturing is when a cell is removed from a plant or animal and put into a favorable artificial environment. Usually, some substrate supplies essential nutrients like amino acids and carbohydrates to grow. All it takes is one single muscle stem cell to grow to 1 trillion muscle cells.
The newly grown muscle cells naturally merge to form tiny Myo tubes placed in a ring. The muscle cell’s tendency to contract frequently causes them to grow into a small strand of muscle tissue. The muscle tissue tubes are then layered together to form a hamburger shape. One muscle cell can turn into one trillion muscle tissue strands, a lot of burgers.
They’re the number of problems currently with in vitro meat.
- Firstly the cost is about nine times more expensive at the moment.
- Secondly, their safety. The meat has to be grown from stem cells on a fetal layer. Theoretically, there are problems with infection.
- Philosophically, it raises the serious issue that it will radically reduce the number of animals. There won’t be twenty billion domesticated animals. They’ll be far fewer.
- It could change the view of the human and animal relationship. It could also have massive advantages to climate change and the use of resources.
- Cultured meat is a great current meat alternative. It can be an available and cheap rate in the future so that everyone can eat.
- It has high protein and fiber. So it will help fill nutrition.
- A good source of carbs and complex carbohydrates.
- There are varieties of favor that make different tastes.
Technology startups and scientists are placing big bets on lab-grown meats. One path to the future of sustainable eating could start with lab-grown meats. In theory, this cultured meat would use fewer of the planet’s resources, and no animals need to be slaughtered in the process.
Cultured meat might become a regular part of our diets in the coming years, making its way onto the dinner table and appearing in some of our favorite restaurants. Nonetheless, the prospect of this meet 2.0 raises many complex social, ethical, and technical questions. Some people find the idea of eating meat from a lab.
Purdy, Chase, Billion Dollar Burger: Inside Big Tech’s Race for the Future of Food, Portfolio/Penguin, 2020.
Schlosser, Eric, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.
Specht, Joshua, Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America, Princeton University Press, 2019.
Winders, Bill, and Elizabeth Ransom, eds., Global Meat: Social and Environmental Consequences of the Expanding Meat Industry, MIT Press, 2019.