- Would you eat a chicken nugget grown in a Petri dish?
What about a steak from a test tube?
This might seem like science fiction, but it could be the next generation of meat.
(logos popping) I'm Sheril Kirshenbaum and on this episode of "Serving Up Science," we're going to explore the science behind cultivated meat.
All right, first things first, so what exactly is lab grown meat or cultivated meat?
A lot of folks seem to have visions of Dr. Frankenstein, but it's nothing like that.
- It's alive.
- Cultivated meat is one kind of alternative protein that replicates the experience of traditionally raised meat.
In a previous episode, we cooked up some plant-based burgers and tried to see if we could tell the difference.
Make sure to check it out.
But cultivated meat is different than plant-based meat alternatives.
It's not a substitute for animal meat.
It's real animal meat.
(cow moos) Cultivated meat should be identical to the taste, texture, and flavor of pork, chicken, beef, and seafood we're already eating, but this lab grow meat doesn't come from an individual cow or pig or bird on the farm.
Instead, it's grown directly from animal cells in a buyer reactor also called a cultivator or as my producer says a large stainless steel tank.
(x buzzes) (producers laughing) There aren't any livestock or fisheries involved, but how does it work?
- [Face] Hmm?
- Scientists take stem cells from the animal's muscle tissue which can grow muscle fibers at high densities and volumes inside bioreactors.
There they receive a growth medium made up of oxygen-rich amino acids, glucose, vitamins, and inorganic salts and other nutrients.
And what do you think of this color red?
To maintain a recognizable shape like a patty or filet, cells grow around a scaffold structure, which gives the meat a shape we're familiar with instead of looking like a pile of mush.
(x buzzes) Most scaffold structures use animal derived polymers, like gelatin and cellulose, but some are synthetic using polyethylene glycol, which is a common food additive.
According to the Good Food Institute, the process to grow meat should take between two to eight weeks depending on the kind of meat being grown.
How would we grow a steak in a test tube?
We need like a long narrow oval.
- [Producer] It's like hot dogs.
- I get that the idea of eating meat grown in a lab might make some people squeamish.
- Ugh, uh uh.
- But our current agricultural practices, especially raising cows for beef, of require a lot of land, water, energy and fertilizer while emitting a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
On top of that, three quarters of global agricultural land, and that's about two times the size of China and India is currently used for livestock raising or feed crops.
Developing more alternative proteins, whether in the lab, through plant-based meats, or by popularizing other available sources, such as insects will be necessary to meet climate goals and consumer demand while protecting forests and other ecosystems that serve as natural carbon sinks and, by the way, over 2 billion people already consume insects as part of their diet.
Additionally, if alternative proteins, like cultivated meat, eventually limit the number of livestock in the world, there will be fewer opportunities for new diseases to emerge, but lab grown meat comes at a price.
In 2013, scientists grew a burger in a lab for a whopping price of $330,000.
In recent years, the costs have dropped precipitously, but cultivated meat isn't expected to be cost competitive with some conventional meats until at least 2030 or later.
- Where's the beef?
- On top of that, the science isn't perfect and these new products are complicated to create.
Regulators are working with policy makers to understand the potential hazards, labeling considerations, and other consumer concerns.
The biggest factor in whether or not cultivated meat succeeds will depend on us.
Will we be ready to accept this new meat option into the marketplace?
That remains to be seen.
Now farm-to-table or lab-to- table, you be the judge.