Apart from the destruction of forests to make prairies for livestock, the latter’s methane emissions contributing to GHGs, their intake of antibiotics and their traumatic electrocuted death prior to preparation as edible meat have seen an exponential rise in the number of vegetarians and vegans worldwide.
Vegetarianism categories were estimated in 2018 to be about 11% of the world population.
Slaughter-free meat involves taking a sample of animal stem cells from a real cow, the building blocks of muscle and other organs and replicating them outside of the animal.
The cells are placed in petri dishes with amino acids and carbohydrates to help the muscle cells multiply and grow. The concept of cultured meat was popularized by Jason Matheny in the early 2000s after co-authoring a seminal paper on cultured meat production and creating New Harvest, the world’s first non-profit organization dedicated to supporting in vitro meat research.
In August 2013, Mark Post, a Dutch pharmacologist and Professor of Vascular Physiology at the Netherlands’ Maastricht University, was the first to showcase a proof-of-concept for cultured meat by creating the first burger patty grown directly from cells.
The burger was cooked by Chef Richard McGeown of Couch’s Great House Restaurant, Polperro, Cornwall, and tasted by critics Hanni Rützler, a food researcher from the Future Food Studio and Josh Schonwald. To commercialize the product, Mark Post co-founded Mosa Meat, indicating that they planned to bring cultured meat to the market by 2021.
In 2015, Maastricht University hosted the first International Conference on Cultured Meat. As the field has grown, non-profit organizations such as New Harvest and The Good Food Institute have begun hosting annual conferences to convene industry leaders, scientists, investors, and potential collaborators from parallel industries.
In 2018, a Dutch startup Meatable, consisting of Krijn de Nood, Daan Luining, Ruud Out, Roger Pederson, Mark Kotter and Gordana Apic among others, reported that it had succeeded in growing meat using pluripotent stem cells from animals’ umbilical cords.
Although such cells are reportedly difficult to work with, Meatable claimed to be able to direct them to behave using their proprietary technique in order to become muscle cells or fat cells as needed. The major advantage is that this technique bypasses fetal bovine serum, meaning that no animal has to be killed in order to produce meat.
It is estimated there were about 30 cultured meat startups across the world. A Dutch House of Representatives Commission meeting discussed the importance and necessity of governmental support for researching, developing and introducing cultured meat in society, speaking to representatives of three universities, three startups and four civil interest groups on September 26, 2018. (meatable.com)
In California, Just is developing lab-grown chicken nuggets, while Finless Food has developed a lab-grown tuna and Memphis Meats, is working on another cell-based product.
In Israel, in 2017 Professor Shulamit Levenberg from Technion University founded Aleph Farms in Rehovet, to commercialise the technique of growing bovine cells on a scaffold similar to growing human tissue implants.
A study by researchers at Oxford and the University of Amsterdam found that cultured meat was “potentially … much more efficient and environmentally-friendly”, generating only 4% GHG emissions, reducing the energy needs of meat generation by up to 45%, and requiring only 2% of the land that the global meat/livestock industry does.
In March 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed on a framework to regulate laboratory grown meat. This deal takes lab meat one step closer to being approved for commercial sale in the United States. Some lab meat producers expect this approval within the year, but some experts warn this process might take years.
During 2019, the nascent, laboratory-grown meat industry experienced fast development thanks to millions of dollars in capital investment. Estimates suggest these meats could reach a mass market by 2025,
The multi-billion dollar traditional meat-producing industry does not approve, warning that the energy and fossil fuel requirements of large-scale cultured meat production may be more environmentally destructive than producing food off the land.
In May 2019, the Alabama Senate passed a bill to ensure that laboratory-grown meat substitutes are not sold to Alabama consumers labeled as “meat.” There are over 20,000 cattle farms in the state of Alabama. Beef continues to be a favorite protein among consumers across the world, with exports of American beef representing an US$8 billion industry alone.
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