Cell-cultured meat, sometimes known as “clean meat,” “cultivated meat,” or “lab-grown meat,” has the potential to revolutionize the food industry. Companies like Eat Just and Memphis Meats are working to engineer real meat products without animals that have a lower environmental impact and better health benefits than traditionally farmed meat.
Paul Shapiro, author of the bestseller Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World, is also the CEO of alternative protein start-up The Better Meat Co. His book explores the ways in which researchers and food scientists are developing cultured meat and how this product will have beneficial effects on consumers’ health.
What is Cell-Cultured Meat?
This is real meat produced from an animal’s cells. Grown outside of the animal in a cultivator, the meat is cultured using a process known as cellular agriculture, or producing food from cells. When the cultured product is grown to a usable amount, its consistency resembles a ground meat product, and no animals had to be raised or slaughtered for it.
The Cellular Agriculture Process
Cellular agriculture is generally broken into two categories: acellular and cellular. Acellular animal proteins (like milk protein) can be made in a fermenter by engineering yeast to carry the DNA that makes milk protein. Acellular processes are already being used to produce animal-derived substances like rennet, a material taken from the stomach of a cow that is used in cheesemaking. Today, most rennet is grown without cows via acellular agriculture .
Cellular animal products are created using a process that grows tissues outside the body. Cells of a particular tissue type and species are assembled on a sponge-like scaffold and given the nutrients they need to grow. They are kept at the optimum temperature that matches the temperature inside the body of the animal whose cells are being replicated. The scaffold also stretches the muscle fibers and “exercises” them to increase their protein content and size.
The initial cells needed to produce meat are taken from a biopsy of a living animal. This means that the cells will be able to produce different types of cells, such as muscle cells and fat cells.
Engineering Meat to be Healthier
Cultivated meat can be engineered to meet certain standards of texture, mouthfeel, taste, and nutritional content. Products made via cellular agriculture are safer and purer than products made with live animals because they are created in a sterile environment. In other words, you don’t have to worry so much about intestinal pathogens like E. Coli when you’re not growing intestines at all, and instead are just growing the muscle and fat people want to eat. That’s one reason people refer to the product as “clean meat.”
It is possible to fine-tune the cellular growth process to make meat products with a healthier fat balance, with fewer saturated fats and more unsaturated fats. In this case, such meats could be beneficial to the consumer’s health.
It is also possible to increase the presence of other nutritional factors in clean meat. The level of iron and other micronutrients could be controlled, making such meat healthier than its counterpart derived from slaughtered animals.
Cost of Production
The production of clean meat has lowered a great deal over the past several years, and the cost of such meat is projected to dip to as low as $80 per kilogram or $36 per pound in the next few years. This means that a typical hamburger would cost about $11, a common price in many higher-end restaurants.
One of cultivated meat’s greatest selling points is that it will be more environmentally-friendly than farmed meat. For example, cultivated meat requires less water than conventional farming. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 96 percent. Cultured meat will also use far less land than the animal farming industry, and it will protect both farm animals and endangered species.
Cultured meat could just be the advancement that animal lovers are hoping for, too. Commercial farms are often criticized for their treatment of animals, and creating cell-cultured meat would mean that fewer animals would need to be raised and slaughtered.
The Better Meat Co.’s Ambition
The Better Meat Co. is an ingredients company dedicated to developing and producing environmentally-friendly and health-conscious animal-free meat enhancers. Today, the company is commercially producing plant-based formulations that can be added to ground meat to improve nutrition, taste, and sustainability. One of its most prominent partners is Perdue Farms, which uses The Better Meat Co.’s product in its Chicken Plus nuggets.
The Impact of Cell-Cultured Meat
In the upcoming years, cultured meat is poised to make an entry into the global food market. Companies like Mosa Meat, New Age Meats, and others are perfecting their processes to make their products more nutritious and environmentally-friendly. In the future, it will be possible to buy cultured meat in a grocery store, enabling people who do not want to eat meat from slaughtered animals to enjoy a better alternative. Paul Shapiro’s book Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World helps to explain how cultivated meat will make an impact on the global food industry and pave the way toward a more sustainable food system..