Meat that tastes, smells and looks like meat, but for which no animal has to die: In vitro meat is set to revolutionize the food world. We took a closer look at the hype and explain to you how far research in the field has come and whether meat from the lab will soon be found in German supermarkets.
The first laboratory-grown meat, cultured meat, was introduced in 2013 by Prof. Dr. Mark Post. Since then, there has been a lot of discussion about the umgan lingo of lab meat.
Many large food start-ups are ensuring that prices continue to fall and that meat can soon be found in German supermarkets.
How is in-vitro meat produced?
For the production of in vitro meat, muscle stem cells are removed from a living animal by means of a biopsy. The harvested stem cells are cultured in a nutrient solution and with a growth serum. This allows the stem cells to proliferate. So that they can develop into muscle fibers in the following step, myogenesis. This takes place in bioreactors. These muscle fibers can now be seasoned and mixed with fat cells also grown in the lab, as well as further processed in general.
Is in vitro meat completely free of animal suffering?
It is not possible to produce the meat in the laboratory entirely without the animal, because the cells have to be taken from the animal through the biopsy. However, this does not cause pain to the animal. The situation is different when it comes to obtaining the growth serum. Initially, this could only be obtained from the blood of living fetuses. During this process, the unborn boy dies as well as his mother. Thus, there is laboratory meat for which animals still have to die. The situation is different again with the developed over time from a plant-based alternative. Start-ups would now work with plant growth serum derived from algae.
So, theoretically, animal-free extracted lab meat is possible – the animal is still indispensable to the process and must be kept for it, though not die.
What speaks for the meat from the Petri dish?
The world’s population is facing more and more challenges and problems due to its rapid growth. One of the major problems is the growing demand for food. The increase in meat consumption in recent years also plays a crucial role here: the intensive use of land and the enormous impact on the environment and climate cannot be denied. It is precisely these problems that research for cultured meat addresses. The production of meat in laboratories could not only conserve resources, but above all avoid animal suffering. Meat without animals having lost their lives sounds absurd, but it is already possible. Besides this ethical aspect, the health aspect can also be mentioned. For those to whom the welfare of the animals seems rather secondary, the following advantage of “Clean Meats” should at least make them think about their own welfare. This is because the contamination of meat with antibiotics or other harmful substances, which is otherwise common in factory farming, does not usually play a role in in-vitro meat. In addition, with Clean Meat, it is possible to specify how it should be composed: the fat content can be reduced, additional nutrients can be added, and the proportions of saturated to polyunsaturated fatty acids can be regulated.
Will in-vitro meat fill supermarket refrigerated counters in the future?
The question here is no longer when, but where. The sale has been approved in Singapore for the first time at the end of last year – this is the cell-based chicken meat from the start-up “Eat Just”, which was sold at the restaurant called Club 1880 from 19/12/20.
Even the large food company Nestlé is already involved with cultured meat. In fact, the group is collaborating with the startup Future Meat Technologies.
Start-ups such as Future-Meat are ensuring that prices continue to fall and that the meat can soon be found in German supermarkets. Future Meat CEO Rom Kshuk said his company now pays as little as $4 for 100 grams of cultured chicken. It is expected to drop to two dollars by the end of 2022, after which it will be available on the U.S. market.
Cell-based animal products: Milk & Fish from the lab
It is not only in the meat sector that research is being conducted into animal-free and more environmentally friendly alternatives, but also in the laboratory on milk, cheese and fish.
In Vitro Dairy Products
Cultured dairy products are produced with the so-called precision fermentation. During this process, programmed microorganisms can produce specific proteins produce. These proteins can then be mixed with water, vegetable fat, sugar and also vitamins and minerals. There are already start-ups for tent-based dairy products in Germany, too.
In Vitro Fish
There are now also already some start-ups, such as BlueNalu, working on cell-based fish. A good solution to counteract the overfishing of the oceans bit by bit and to protect the oceans in the future. Fish stocks could recover, no fishing nets to injure marine animals and litter the sea as ghost nets, and no bycatch to die unnecessarily – the list of benefits of in-vitro fish is long.
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What are the challenges?
The topic of cell-based agriculture always generates discussion and brings concerns.
So a big point that definitely still needs to be worked on is acceptance among the population. Many approach the matter rather skeptically. In addition, funding is a major hurdle, or rather, lab-grown meat is still too expensive for the general public. The high cost of research must also be taken into account.
Laboratory meat is of particular concern to the agricultural sector and the meat industry – they see their work as being at risk. On the other hand, it is pointed out that yes, the laboratory meat is also further processed and thus the already existing machines and labor could be used. This is where dealing with change and being open to innovation can be crucial.
Overall, cell-based animal products represent an innovative solution to the many problems and challenges currently facing humanity.
However, it should be added that the vegan diet is still a more sustainable way of eating. However, it is obvious that many people do not want to or cannot do without animal products. In addition, the change of diet is a path or a process that does not happen overnight. Therefore, the laboratory meat is a crucial innovation.