October 3, 2022 – The idea is almost a hundred years in the making. None other than Winston Churchill envisioned an alternative to traditional meat production when he wrote in 1931“We will escape the absurdity of raising a whole chicken to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under an appropriate medium.”
Churchill’s poultry example would prove prophetic, as the first restaurant to serve lab-raised meat chose chicken in a trio of example dishes. Served on a bun with scallions and sesame seeds, wrapped in puff pastry and black bean puree, or topped on a crispy maple waffle with spices and hot sauce, it’s lab-grown meat culinary debut in Singapore at Robertson Quay.
So far, Singapore stands alone in producing edible samples of so-called cultured meat, which is grown from animal cells. Developed by US startup Eat Just, the sample dishes at Club 1880 cost around $23.
Today, other countries are ready – albeit on a small scale – to join Singapore and are awaiting regulatory approval. At least 24 countries have companies develop cultured meat. In the US, a few factors are accelerating the inevitable debut in restaurants in search of healthier, more sustainable foods. One of them is that the US government has invested millions in research for a few select academic centers to grow meat cells. The cells promise to replicate beef, chicken, pork and seafood, as well as other consumer goods. Another reason is the increasing demand for protein alternatives.
Consumers need only look to the recent surge in plant-based meats, which are prevalent in grocery stores and restaurant menus, to see the growing demand for alternatives to traditional meats.
Plant-based protein until July 31, 2021 Sales increased by 11%, fueled by a 43% increase in the number of households buying alternatives to meat.
Cultured meat differs from products like veggie burgers or plant-based patties, links, and strips that look like their real-meat counterparts.
It’s real animal meat without slaughter, say scientists like Dr.
From the petri dish to the dinner plate
Tufts received $10 millionUS Department of Agriculture 5-year grant in 2021 to develop cultured meat.
Other major centers dealing with cultured meat are the University of California-Davis and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Kaplan explains that mass production requires a single cell from an animal, extracted with a needle from either muscle or other tissue, or harvested from an animal’s eggs, to start a cell line.
The meat is grown by feeding the cells nutrients that would normally come from the animal’s body – amino acids, glucose, vitamins, proteins and salts. A process called scaffolding can help the cells grow into the components that could one day result in a steak with bones, marbled fat, and connective tissue, for example.
But what will this concoction be called?
The word “cultured” is unlikely to come up as part of the delicious promotion for the new option. Scientists have called it cultured meat or cell-based protein, but those terms are unlikely to trick people into eating them and will pose a marketing challenge for the industry.
Solve world hunger and taste good on a small budget?
The ambitions for cultured flesh are noble. Feeding the hungry and malnourished is an important long-term goal with cultured meat, says Joan Salge Blake, EdD, a registered dietitian and educator at Boston University in Massachusetts.
“The problem is that we have to feed the world. This cultured type of protein is an interesting solution. We need to feed 10 billion people by 2050.”
But she says the success of cultured meat and seafood with American consumers will depend not on societal issues like sustainability and health, but on personal ones: Will it taste good and be affordable?
“The number one reason Americans choose a food or drink is taste,” says Salge Blake. “The second thing is the price.” And with inflation ramping up at the moment, she expects the strain on families’ food budgets to continue.
How does this new meat taste? Call it a work in progress. Kaplan says the first iteration of the meat will likely be a hybrid — cultured meat blended with plant-based meat to improve flavor and texture and keep costs down.
Why does “real” meat need tuition in terms of taste? Because cultured meat is grown from cells, potentially harmful fats could be excreted at the cellular level. Which is great from a health standpoint, but not from a “fat is taste” perspective.
And as with most foods, making compromises to make something taste better or extend its shelf life can mean those health benefits are compromised.
“I don’t think these alternative cultured proteins will ever take over traditional steaks and hamburgers,” says Salge Blake.
Questions about the green part
David Block, PhD, leads the team of about 55 researchers at UC-Davis’ Cultivated Meat Consortium developing new products with a grant from the National Science Foundation.
He says there’s reason to believe cultured meat helps the environment and is sustainable, but until now, “no one really knows.”
He gives an example of beef. A cow eats and grows, but throws out waste. After slaughter there are also parts of the cow that are not used and thrown away. And cows give off methane that warms the planet.
The thought is that if the animal cells grew directly into a fermenter or bioreactor, there would be less waste and emissions.
“However, I don’t think it’s that simple,” says Block.
One issue lies in the nutrients that help cells grow, he says. They will likely be plant or agricultural by-products. So if you use soy for example, the question is can you grow that much more soy in the world and what does that mean for the environment.
Cows eat grass in places where nothing else grows, he points out. One of the unknowns is whether there is enough arable land in the world to produce raw materials for cultivated meat production.
And the fermenters in which cultured meat is grown must be sterile for food safety reasons.
“To sterilize something, you probably need steam, which adds an energy component to the energy and water used for temperature control,” he says.
What is certain is that more and more high-stakes players are betting that cultured meat is coming.
Lots of money behind the effort
Globally, the number of cultured meat startups rose to 107 last year, a 24% increase from 2020.
Block says that compares to “probably six companies 6 years ago.”
Cultured meat, according to the Good Food Institute companies raised $1.3 billion in 2021, that’s 71% of all-time investment in this space.
Pending FDA and Department of Agriculture approval, U.S. companies are ready to begin pilot-scale production, Block said.
But “to build a large scale facility that would make this more available it would probably take on the order of 5 years. Conservatively, it would take 10 or 15 years for this to become widely available,” he says.
Kaplan says no changes are expected anytime soon in terms of a shift from traditional farming to cultured meat, but progress is inevitable. World population growth over the next 3 decades and consumer demand will dictate it.
“We have no choice,” says Kaplan. “We cannot use the same systems to feed 10 billion people on the planet. So we need efficient options.”
That means traditional meats, plant-based meats, and cultured meats.
“We need everything,” he says.
Aside from concerns about taste and cost, many other factors will determine the eventual demand for cultured meat.
Is it kosher, vegetarian or something else?
Discussions have already begun as to whether these new options would comply with kosher laws and other religions’ restrictions that prohibit the consumption of some meats.
What about vegans and vegetarians? If the moral and ethical issues of animal treatment were removed, would more people adopt cultured or “safe” meat if the new meat turned out to be healthier?
Meanwhile, as science advances, so does the creativity that will no doubt be required to entice people to taste and embrace cultured meat.
Working with entirely new ingredients to create something delicious for the public is an exciting opportunity, according to Colin Buchan, the chef who created the new sample dishes at Club 1880. (Buchan is also the former private chef to former England soccer star David Beckham and his wife Victoria.)
in the a statement At the time of the historic gourmet launch, Nate Park, Eat Just’s director of product development, said, “Rarely does a professional chef get the chance to create an entirely new food category and help design an interactive meal to showcase that product, and.” the meaning behind it, the world for the very first time.”
We suspect Churchill would have been too curious not to try.