Cultured meat is lab-grown meat. This meat is produced through the “in vitro cultivation” of animal cells. In other words, it refers to the concept of meat, which includes fat cells, connective tissue, muscle cells, blood, and other components produced by cell culture instead of slaughtering the whole animal. The production of cultured meat starts with taking some cells from an animal and proliferating them in a nutrient-rich culture medium, where they are capable of multiplying several times in vitro. It is also a form of cellular agriculture. The production process of cultured meat still has much room for improvement, but it has advanced under various companies.
Jason Matheny popularized the concept of cultured meat in early 2000. In 2001, medical doctor Willem van Eelen, businessman Willem van Kooten, and dermatologist Wiete Westerhof had announced that they filed for a global patent on a process to produce cultured meat. In 2003, Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr of the Tissue Culture and Art Project and Harvard Medical School exhibited a few centimeters wide “steak”, grown from frog stem cells, which was cooked and relished. In 2012, 30 laboratories from across the world had declared that they are working on cultured meat research. Dr. Mark Post at Maastricht University created the first cultured beef burger patty and was nibbled at a demonstration for the press in London on August 2013.
How cultured meat is produced?
There are three stages in the production of cultured meat:
1. Selection of starter cells –
The very first stage of growing cultured meat.
It includes collecting cells that have a rapid rate of proliferation that is a high cell production rate. These types of cells include embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, myosatellite cells, or myoblasts. But myosatellite and myoblast are the cells that are often used as they increase at an acceptable rate, but also equally differentiate from other types of cells.
2. Treatment of Growth Medium
This is the second stage in the production of cultured meat. It is the treatment in which the cells are treated by applying a solution that helps the tissue grow, which is known as a growth medium. This medium contains the required nutrients and appropriate quality of growth factors. Then they are placed in a culture medium in a bioreactor that provides the cell with energetic requirements they need.
Scaffolding is the third stage in the process. In this, the cells are grown on a scaffold, which is a component that directs its structure and order. An ideal scaffold is edible, so the meat does not have to be removed; it periodically moves to stretch the developing muscle and thereby to stimulate the animal body during normal development. It also maintains flexibility. Scaffold must also allow vascularization – the creation of blood vessels for the normal development of muscle tissue.
Benefits of cultured meat
• Cultured meat can produce more consistent and quality meats.
• It can help meet the demands of a growing population.
• It can help minimize the negative effects of livestock agriculture.
• Could free up space and resources for other uses.
• Lab-grown meat produces only meat and not bones.
• Technology for lab-grown meat is consistently improving.
• Potential to be animal origin free in the future.
• Can make use of renewable energy in the future.
• Lab-grown meat can be modified for beneficial purposes.
• Can minimize risks associated with animal farming.
Drawbacks of cultured meat
• It is currently not affordable for everyone.
• There are possibly better, cheaper, and effective ways to produce food for the human population.
• It does not yet prevent the exploitation of animals.
• It is currently no different from growing feed for livestock, which is very inefficient.
• Some sustainable, organic, open pasture, and some other types of livestock farming may actually be more eco-friendly as compare to cultured meat.
• It also faces several ethical concerns as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
• Not everyone prefers cultured meat.
• Not every lab-grown meat product carries enough nutritional values.
• The existing land-based livestock agriculture jobs might get removed from the economy.
• It can use a lot of resources and have a significant environmental footprint to same extent.
• A significant number of people argue, more investment should be made in plant-based diets instead of cultured meat, which have a higher feeding capacity and more benefits.
Cultured meat, a.k.a. lab-grown meat a.k.a synthetic meat, has a number of advantages such as better animal welfare, lower greenhouse effect, gas production, and the ability to manipulate the nutrient composition of the product. Many companies have been successful in producing cultured meat, but there is still room for improvement in it.
It is possible that cultured meat products could play a complementary role alongside conventional meat products in meeting the predicted increase in global demand for meat. But it also depends on the consumer and their readiness to accept the cultured meat products.
1. What is cultured meat?
Cultured meat, a.k.a lab grown meat, a.k.a synthesized meat is produced via cell culture, rather than from a whole slaughtered animal. It is produced by the ‘in vitro cultivation’ of animal cells.
2. Is cultured meat expensive?
The price of cultured meat depends on a company’s production capabilities. Since the industry is still nascent, according to the demand and availability of raw material, it’s relatively more expensive than traditional meat options.
3. Is cultured meat healthy?
Consuming Cultured meat is no different than having traditional meat products. In fact, it’s deemed safer and healthier than traditional mean by researchers. It is produced in a completely sterile environment, so bacteria do not contaminate the meat, thus, preventing the illness.