Meat grown in labs could hit the market this year
March 4, 2019 - Meat grown from cultured cells -- so-called “clean meat” -- is made by taking muscle tissue from an animal, collecting stem cells from the sample and multiplying them dramatically into strands of muscle tissue.
Since Professor Mark Post, a researcher at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, debuted the world’s first clean meat burger in London in August 2013, there’s been a fast development of the technology and the industry as a whole.
That first quarter-pound (110-gram) burger made from lab-grown meat cost $325,000 to produce and was financed by Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. The price has since dropped to just over $11 per burger, according to Mosa Meat, a Dutch start-up co-founded by Post.
At the inaugural Good Food Conference in California last September, Dr Liz Specht gave a crash course on clean meat production. Clean meat is identical at the cellular level to conventional muscle.
Cells are sampled from live animals and grown in bioreactors containing nutrients and fetal bovine serum (FBS), which supplies growth factors; they proliferate and differentiate into different cell types just as they would naturally. Many clean-meat companies are developing synthetic or plant-based growth media to avoid ethical issues associated with FBS growth medium.
With global demand for meat expected to increase by more than 70 per cent by 2050, the race is on to see which clean meat startup gets to scale first. A single 25,000-litre bioreactor can produce 400kg of meat per year -- the average amount of meat consumed by 9,500 people. Mosa Meat says that one tissue sample from a cow can yield enough muscle tissue to make 80,000 quarter-pounders.
Alongside Mosa Meat, Israeli tech firm Aleph Farms is working on perfecting taste and texture with different ratios of fat cells and muscle cells, colour and aroma to achieve the taste and textures of farmyard meat. In the U.S., startups including Memphis Meats, Clara Foods, Perfect Day, Finless Foods, and JUST, are all developing beef, chicken or tuna meats.