Tag Archives: lab-grown meat

California cultured meat plant is ready to produce 50,000 pounds of meat per year

In a residential neighborhood in Emeryville, California, a rather unusual facility has taken shape. The factory, which almost looks like a brewery, is actually a meat factory — but rather than slaughtering animals, it uses bioreactors to “grow” meat. According to the company that built it, it can already produce 50,000 pounds of meat per year, and has room to expand production to 400,000 pounds.

UPSIDE Chicken Salad

Upside Foods (previously called Memphis Meats) started out in 2015 as one of the pioneers of the nascent food-growing industry. Now, just 6 years later, there are over 80 companies working to bring lab-grown meat to the public — including one in Singapore which is already selling cultured chicken.

The fact that such a factory can be built (while regulatory approval is still pending and Upside can’t technically sell its products) already is striking. Upside’s new facility is located in an area known more for its restaurants than its factories, but with $200 million in funding and ever-growing consumer interest, the company seems to be sending a strong message.

Cultivating meat

The new facility is a testament to how much technology in this field has grown. The company can not only produce ground meat, but cuts of meat as well. Chicken breast is the first planned product, and the company says they can produce many types of meat, from duck to lobster.

“When we founded UPSIDE in 2015, it was the only cultivated meat company in a world full of skeptics,” says Uma Valeti, CEO and Founder of UPSIDE Foods. “When we talked about our dream of scaling up production, it was just that — a dream. Today, that dream becomes a reality. The journey from tiny cells to EPIC has been an incredible one, and we are just getting started.”

There’s still no word yet on how much these products will cost, but it’s probably not gonna be the cheapest meat on the market. Although lab-grown meat is nearing cost-competitiveness with slaughter meat, it’s not quite there yet. Besides, Upside already announced that their chicken products will be served by three-Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn. Crenn is the only chef in the US to be awarded three Michelin stars, and she famously removed meat from her menus in 2018 to make a statement against the negative impact of animal agriculture on the global environment and the climate crisis

Not for sale yet

Upside isn’t the only company to recently receive a lot of money in funding. Their San Francisco rival Eat Just, which became the first company in the world to sell lab-grown meat, received more than $450 million in funding. A 2021 McKinsey & Company report estimates that the cultivated meat industry will surge to $25 billion by 2030. However, in the US (and almost every country on the globe) cultured meat isn’t approved for sale yet.

The FDA has largely been silent on lab-grown meat since 2019, and while many expect a verdict soon, there’s no guarantee of a timeline. Even if the FDA allows the sale and consumption of lab-grown meat in the US, it will likely do so on a product-by-product basis rather than opening the floodgates to lab-grown meat as a whole. In the EU, things will likely move even slower.

However, pressure is mounting. In addition to the obvious ethical advantages of lab-grown meat, its environmental impact may also be less severe than that of slaughter meat. However, this has not been confirmed since we don’t yet have a large-scale production facility, and the few available studies don’t have definitive conclusions.

This is why having a working factory is so exciting, because it could offer the first glimpses of how sustainable the practice actually is. Upside says the facility uses 100% renewable energy and has expressed its desire to have a third party verify the facility’s sustainability by mid-2022.

Of course, all of this depends on the regulatory approval that may or may not come anytime soon. In the meantime, the factory is ready and good to go.

This is the first rib-eye steak that didn’t require killing an animal

Image credits: Aleph Farms / Technion — Israel Institute of Technology.

It’s almost shocking to see how quickly lab-grown meat technology is progressing. It seems that it was sci-fi almost yesterday and now already, we have the first government-approved lab meat in Singapore, in the form of chicken nuggets.

But chicken nuggets only get you so far. If we want to get people to eat lab-grown meat, you need to make a good steak, and that’s exactly what a new start-up managed to produce.

Why go to all this trouble

Why would you go to all the trouble of developing a new technology and a complex process when you could just, you know, cut a cow?

Meat production is one of the most environmentally damaging food industries out there. Its climate impact roughly equivalent to the driving of every car in the world — and it’s not just the emissions.

The meat industry is also associated with deforestation and environmental degradation, and calorie per calorie (or protein per protein), it uses much more water and land than alternatives. There’s also the fact that you’re killing an animal to eat, which for many is reason enough.

Alas, meat tastes good, and for many, it’s just too hard to pass up. So researchers have come up with a way around that: growing meat in a laboratory.

Essentially, you get real animal cells but without having to slaughter animals. It’s cruelty-free meat, and (researchers hope) it can also be done with fewer resources and emissions than regular meat.

The basis of the technology comes from regenerative medicine, where cell samples are used to grow entire tissues and organs. With cultivated meat, you use cells to grow fat and muscle tissues, and grow them on a scaffold that allows them to develop in three dimensions. All it takes is a starter pack of cells obtained from an animal biopsy.

Unlike regular 3D printing though, this uses actual living cells that are incubated in a broth rich in nutrients, and then grow and develop like a living tissue. Several companies are showing remarkable progress. Recently, one such company, Aleph Farms, presented the first lab-grown rib-eye steak.

Image credits: Aleph Farms / Technion — Israel Institute of Technology.

It incorporates muscle and fat just like the real deal, and it’s reportedly as juicy and tasty as a prime steak from the butcher.

“With the realization of this milestone, we have broken the barriers to introducing new levels of variety into the cultivated meat cuts we can now produce. As we look into the future of 3D bioprinting, the opportunities are endless,” says Technion Professor Shulamit Levenberg, Aleph’s Co-Founder, Chief Scientific Advisor and a major contributor behind the company

The steak was grown in partnership with the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and is reportedly, the first grown rib-eye steak in the world.

Creating diverse types of lab-grown meat is important if the approach is ever to become mainstream — and according to a new report that claims Europe and the US will reach “peak meat” by 2025, this seems more important than ever.

Technion researchers: Iris Ianovici, Professor Shulamit Levenberg, Aleph’s Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Advisor; and Yedidya Zagury, PhD. Credit: Nitzan Zohar: Office of the Spokesperson, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Many questions still remain, especially about the scalability of the operation and the price. The price, in particular, is a concern. Meat isn’t particularly expensive in most parts of the world, and in order to compete, lab-grown meat needs to be at least in a comparable price range.

But for now, the creators of this rib-eye steak seem to be relishing their achievement.

“This breakthrough reflects an artistic expression of the scientific expertise of our team,” enthuses Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms. “I am blessed to work with some of the greatest people in this industry. We recognize some consumers will crave thicker and fattier cuts of meat. This accomplishment represents our commitment to meeting our consumer’s unique preferences and taste buds, and we will continue to progressively diversify our offerings,” adds Toubia. “Additional meat designs will drive a larger impact in the mid and long term. This milestone for me marks a major leap in fulfilling our vision of leading a global food system transition toward a more sustainable, equitable and secure world.”

New approach to lab-grown meat creates more realistic, more customizable steaks

A new study details how to create lab-grown meat that has a more natural taste and texture. The process will also allow more control over the structure of the meat, so consumers will be able to pick the exact amount of fat content or marbling they want.

Image via Pixabay.

Steakhouses today may ask customers how they’d like their meat to be cooked, but a new paper from McMaster University could mean they’ll soon ask how we’d like it “tuned”. Their paper describes how a more natural feeling and tasting type of lab-grown meat can be produced. According to the authors, this will provide a more “real meat” experience and allow people to have as much fat or marbling on their cut of meat as they want.

Sheets to slabs

“We are creating slabs of meat,” co-author Ravi Selvaganapathy says in a media release. “Consumers will be able to buy meat with whatever percentage of fat they like – just like they do with milk.”

The authors, both from McMaster’s School of Biomedical Engineering, developed a new technique to create lab-grown meat. It involves stacking thin sheets of cultivated muscle and fat tissues, then merging them together. It’s similar to the approach we use to grow human tissue for transplants, the authors explain.

Each of these sheets is as thin as a sheet of paper, and they’re made from cells first grown in a lab culture. They naturally bind to one another while the cells are alive, says Selvaganapathy. This process helps impart the improved texture to the meat. The team tested their approach with cells harvested from lab mice. They didn’t eat that one, but they did eventually grow, cook, and taste a sample from rabbit cells.

“It felt and tasted just like meat,” Selvaganapathy reports.

Although their experiments didn’t include these types of cells as well, the team is confident that beef, pork, or chicken will be growable using this approach in the future. The stacking-sheets approach is also easily scaled-up for industrial production, they add.

The global demand for meat is putting a heavy strain on nature, as it takes a lot of food, water, and land to grow our livestock — and they also produce ample methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Factory farms also need to feed their animals antibiotics constantly to avoid disease, which is helping bacteria develop resistance to drugs. Lab-grown meat can help address this demand much more cleanly and efficiently.

“Meat production right now is not sustainable,” Selvaganapathy contends. “There has to be an alternative way of creating meat.”

The McMaster team is currently working on a start-up company that can produce meat using this technique and sell it commercially.

The paper “Engineering Murine Adipocytes and Skeletal Muscle Cells in Meat-like Constructs Using Self-Assembled Layer-by-Layer Biofabrication: A Platform for Development of Cultivated Meat” has been published in the journal Cells Tissues Organs.

Lab-grown meat is almost upon us — and most Americans would gladly try it

Lab-grown chicken and beef have already started to hit the shelves. It might not be long until they become commonplace — and if that is the case, most people would welcome them, according to a new survey.

Brewing Burgers

Image by Flickr user régine debatty, via Faunalytics.

If you haven’t heard about “clean meat” or “lab-grown meat”, don’t beat yourself up — most people haven’t, the survey revealed. Clean meat is essentially in vitro, cultured meat, grown from animal cells, without actually raising or harming any animals. The process, producers say, is akin to brewing beer — except instead of brewing beer, you’re brewing burgers.

Two decades ago, this would have been purely a fantasy. Even a few years ago, lab-grown burgers had astronomical prices and were little more than a scientific curiosity. But things have changed. Several companies and research institutes have brought the price down, up to the point where it’s starting to look like a viable alternative.

“Clean meat is on the horizon,” says Jo Anderson, research director for Faunalytics, a nonprofit research organization that gathers data for animal advocates. The group performed the survey with support from the nonprofit Good Food Institute. “There are a lot of questions about how people are going to feel about it, what we can do to make sure that it’s perceived accurately so that it doesn’t raise concerns for people, and we just wanted to look into different ways of moving that process.”

Bad meat

Why, you might ask, would someone go through all this trouble just to have something that’s already easily available — like meat? Well, the reasons often start with ethics, but they don’t end there. Naturally, not having to subject millions and millions of animals to brutal living conditions, and then slaughtering them, is one of the advantages. But it’s definitely not the only one. It’s estimated that when clean meat reaches its potential, it will require less water, less land, and generate fewer emissions. By all metrics, it will be more sustainable and environmentally-friendly than conventional meat. Given the massive environmental impact that agriculture (and particularly, animal growing) has, it could come as a much-needed boon.

But would people like it?

In a survey of nearly 1,200 participants, most said they weren’t familiar with the idea of clean meat. But after hearing a short definition, along with the benefits of the technique, 66.4% said they’d be willing to try it. Just under half (45.9%) said they’d be willing to replace conventional meat with it and buy it regularly.

Of course, this is still a small study, and if anything, it’s more likely to help producers rather than the general population — by seeing how receptive consumers are to different messages (which were compared in the survey), they can choose their angle accordingly and customize the selling points of the products.

Rather surprisingly, there seems to be an “ick factor” associated with lab-grown meat. Arguably, it’s not the most appealing of foods, but then again, comparing the way the vast majority of animals are kept and handled, one could argue that in vitro cultures are hardly more repulsive.

Lastly, the fact that this industry has developed so fast, and is almost ready to take the world by surprise, can be an advantage, Anderson says — if producers play their cards well.

“I actually think that it’s a benefit that not that many people are familiar with yet,” says Anderson. “It means that there’s sort of a clean slate to approach people with the information about the benefits of clean meat.”

So, what do you think about it? Would you try this type of meat? Would you consume it regularly? Leave your answers on the poll above and in the comment section!