Cultured meat

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The first cultured hamburger, manufactured in August 2013, prior to cooking

Cultured meat is meat produced by in vitro cell culture of animal cells, instead of from slaughtered animals.[1] It is a form of cellular agriculture.

Cultured meat is produced using many of the same tissue engineering techniques traditionally used in regenerative medicine.[2] The concept of cultured meat was popularized by Jason Matheny in the early 2000s after co-authoring a seminal paper[3] on cultured meat production and creating New Harvest, the world's first nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting in vitro meat research.[4]

Lecture The Meat Revolution at the World Economic Forum by Mark Post of the University of Maastricht about in vitro meat. (Runtime 20:16)

In 2013, Mark Post, a professor at Maastricht University was the first to showcase a proof-of-concept for cultured meat by creating the first burger patty grown directly from cells. Since then, several cultured meat prototypes have gained media attention: SuperMeat opened a laboratory restaurant called "The Chicken" in Tel Aviv to test consumer reaction to its "Chicken Burger".[5] The "world's first commercial sale of cell-cultured meat" occurred in December 2020 at the Singapore restaurant "1880", where cultured meat manufactured by the US firm Eat Just was sold.[6]

The production process is constantly evolving, with advancement under various companies.[7] Its applications have led it to have several prospective moral, health, environmental, cultural, and economic considerations compared to conventional meat.[8]

Nomenclature[edit]

Besides cultured meat, the terms healthy meat,[9] slaughter-free meat,[10] in vitro meat, vat-grown,[11] lab-grown meat,[12] cell-based meat,[13] clean meat,[14] cultivated meat[15] and synthetic meat[16] have all been used by various outlets to describe the product.

Between 2016 and 2019, clean meat gained traction as the term preferred by some journalists, advocates, and organizations that support the technology. The Good Food Institute (GFI) coined the term in 2016,[17] and in late 2018 published research which claimed that "clean" better reflected the production and benefits of the meat[18][19] and surpassed "cultured" and "in vitro" in media mentions and Google searches.[20] Despite this, some industry stakeholders felt that the term unnecessarily alienated conventional meat producers, continuing to prefer cell-based meat as a neutral alternative.[21][22]

In September 2019, GFI announced new research which found that the term cultivated meat is sufficiently descriptive and differentiating, possesses a high degree of neutrality, and ranks highly for consumer appeal.[15][23]

History[edit]

Preliminary research[edit]

The theoretical possibility of growing meat in an industrial setting has long captured the public imagination. In his 1931 essay Fifty Years Hence, Winston Churchill wrote: "We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium."[24]

In the 1950s, Dutch scientist William Van Eelen independently came up with the idea for cultured meat. As a child during the second world war, Van Eelen suffered from starvation leading him to be passionate about food production and food security as an adult. He attended the University of Amsterdam as a student and at one point attended a lecture discussing the prospects of preserved meat. Coupled with the discovery of cell lines earlier in the century, this provoked the intuition behind cultivated meat.

In vitro cultivation of muscular fibers was first performed successfully in 1971 when Russel Ross cultured guinea pig aorta. In the abstract of his paper, he noted that "Smooth muscle derived from the inner media and intima of immature guinea pig aorta were grown for up to 8 weeks in cell culture. The cells maintained the morphology of smooth muscle at all phases of their growth in culture. After growing to confluency, they grew in multiple overlapping layers. By week 4 in culture, microfibrils (110 A) appeared within the spaces between the layers of cells. Basement membrane-like material also appeared adjacent to the cells. Analysis of the microfibrils showed that they have an amino acid composition similar to that of the microfibrillar protein of the intact elastic fiber. These investigations coupled with the radioautographic observations of the ability of an aortic smooth muscle to synthesize and secrete extracellular proteins demonstrate that this cell is a connective tissue synthetic cell".[25]

In 1991 Jon F. Vein of the United States filed for, and ultimately secured, a patent (US 6,835,390 B1) for the production of tissue-engineered meat for human consumption, wherein muscle and fat cells would be grown in an integrated fashion to create food products such as beef, poultry, and fish.[25]

In 2001, dermatologist Wiete Westerhof from the University of Amsterdam, researcher and businessperson Willem van Eelen, and businessperson Willem van Kooten announced that they had filed for a worldwide patent on a process to produce cultured meat.[26] In the process, a matrix of collagen is seeded with muscle cells, which are then bathed in a nutritious solution and induced to divide[27]

That same year, NASA began conducting experiments in cultured meat with the intent of applying it to space travel to allow long-term astronauts to grow meat without sacrificing travel storage. In partnership with Morris Benjaminson of Turro College, they were able to cultivate segments of goldfish tissue and later turkey cells.[28]

In 2003, Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr of the Tissue Culture and Art Project and Harvard Medical School exhibited in Nantes a "steak" a few centimeters wide, grown from frog stem cells, which was cooked and eaten. The goal of the exhibition was to start a conversation surrounding the ethics of cultured meat — was it ever alive?, was it ever killed?, is it disrespectful to an animal in any way to throw it away?[29]

In the early 2000s, American public health student Jason Matheny traveled to India and visited a chicken factory farm. From a public health perspective, he was appalled by the implications this system had for human consumers. Upon returning to the United States, Matheny teamed up with 3 scientists involved in NASA's effort to culture meat. The four commenced research on the commercial prospects of lab-based meat, and their findings were later published in 2005 Tissue Engineering as the first piece of peer-reviewed literature on the subject. In 2004, Matheny also founded the not for profit New Harvest which aims to encourage development in the field by funding public research.[30]

In 2008, PETA offered a $1 million prize to the first company to bring lab-grown chicken meat to consumers by 2012.[31] The contestant was required to complete two tasks before receiving the prize: "Produce a cultured chicken meat product that was indistinguishable from real chicken," and "Produce the product in large enough quantities to be competitively sold in at least 10 states." The contest was extended until 4 March 2014. Since 2008 when the challenge was first announced, researchers around the world have made significant headway into the production of cultured meat. The deadline eventually expired without a winner, however, the publicity around the topic brought cultured meat further into the eyes of scientists.[32]

In 2008, the Dutch government invested $4 million into experiments regarding cultured meat.[33] The In Vitro Meat Consortium, a group formed by international researchers interested in the technology, held the first international conference on the production of cultured meat, hosted by the Food Research Institute of Norway in April 2008, to discuss commercial possibilities.[34] Time magazine declared cultured meat production to be one of the 50 breakthrough ideas of 2009.[35] In November 2009, scientists from the Netherlands announced they had managed to grow meat in the laboratory using the cells from a live pig.[36]

First public trial[edit]

The first cultured meat hamburger, produced in 2013
Hanni Rützler tastes the world's first cultured hamburger, 5 August 2013.

The first cultured beef burger patty was created by Dr. Mark Post at Maastricht University in 2013.[37] It was made from over 20,000 thin strands of muscle tissue, cost Dr. Post over $300,000 to make and over 2 years to produce.[38] Since then, it has been estimated that the price would probably fall to $10 by 2021.[39]

The burger was tested on live television in London on 5 August 2013. It was cooked by chef Richard McGeown of Couch's Great House Restaurant, Polperro, Cornwall, and tasted by critics Hanni Rützler, a food researcher from the Future Food Studio and Josh Schonwald. Rützler stated, "There is really a bite to it, there is quite some flavour with the browning. I know there is no fat in it so I didn't really know how juicy it would be, but there is quite some intense taste; it's close to meat, it's not that juicy, but the consistency is perfect. This is meat to me... It's really something to bite on and I think the look is quite similar." Rützler added that even in a blind trial she would have taken the product for meat rather than a soya copy.[40]

Industry development[edit]

It's just a matter of time before this is gonna happen, I'm absolutely convinced of that. In our case, I estimate the time to be about 3 years before we are ready to enter the market on a small scale, about 5 years to enter the market on a larger scale, and if you'd ask me: "When will [cultured meat] be in the supermarket around the corner?" That'll be closer to 10 than to 5 years, I think.

– Peter Verstrate, Mosa Meat (2018)[41](1:06:15)

Between 2011 and 2017, many of the first cultured meat startups were launched. Memphis Meats, a Silicon Valley startup founded by a cardiologist, launched a video in February 2016 showcasing its cultured beef meatball.[42][43][44] In March 2017, it showcased chicken tenders and duck a l'orange, the first cultured poultry-based foods shown to the public.[45][46][47] Memphis Meats was later the subject of the 2020 Meat the Future documentary.

An Israeli company, SuperMeat, ran a viral crowdfunding campaign in 2016 for its work on cultured chicken.[48][49][50][51][52]

Finless Foods, a San Francisco-based company aimed at cultured fish, was founded in June 2016. In March 2017 it commenced laboratory operations and progressed quickly. Director Mike Selden said in July 2017 to expect bringing cultured fish products on the market within two years (by the end of 2019).[53]

In March 2018, Eat Just (in 2011 founded as Hampton Creek in San Francisco, later known as Just, Inc.) claimed to be able to present a consumer product from cultured meat by the end of 2018. According to CEO Josh Tetrick the technology is already there, and now it is merely a matter of applying it. JUST has about 130 employees and a research department of 55 scientists, where lab meat from poultry, pork and beef is being developed. They would have already solved the problem of feeding the stem cells with only plant resources. JUST receives sponsoring from Chinese billionaire Li Ka-shing, Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang and according to Tetrick also from Heineken International amongst others.[54]

There is a handful [of startups]. It's quite interesting to see, there are three hubs: one in Silicon Valley, one in the Netherlands and one in Israel. I think that's because these three places have firstly, a great agricultural university – we've got Wageningen; secondly, a great medical university – for us that's Leiden; and finally we've got Delft on the engineering side. Those three combined gives you a firm basis to [develop cultured meat], and that [combination] exists in Israel, the Netherlands and America.

– Krijn de Nood, Meatable (2020)[55]

The Dutch startup Meatable, consisting of Krijn de Nood, Daan Luining, Ruud Out, Roger Pederson, Mark Kotter and Gordana Apic among others, reported in September 2018 it had succeeded in growing meat using pluripotent stem cells from animals' umbilical cords. Although such cells are reportedly difficult to work with, Meatable claimed to be able to direct them to behave using their proprietary technique in order to become muscle cells or fat cells as needed. The major advantage is that this technique bypasses fetal bovine serum, meaning that no animal has to be killed in order to produce meat.[56] That month, it was estimated there were about 30 cultured meat startups across the world. A Dutch House of Representatives Commission meeting discussed the importance and necessity of governmental support for researching, developing and introducing cultured meat in society, speaking to representatives of three universities, three startups and four civil interest groups on 26 September 2018.[41]

Integriculture is a Japan-based company working on creating a culture system that would enable cells to be grown without animal-based sera additives through their CulNet system. Companies working on the same problem include England based Multus Media and Canadian Future Fields.[57]

In August 2019, five startups announced the formation of the Alliance for Meat, Poultry & Seafood Innovation (AMPS Innovation), a coalition seeking to work with government regulators to create a pathway to market for cultured meat and seafood.[58] The founding members include Eat Just, Memphis Meats, Finless Foods, BlueNalu, and Fork & Goode.[59]

In 2019, the Foieture project was launched in Belgium with the goal of developing cultured foie gras (the name is a portmanteau of 'foie' and 'future') by a consortium of 3 companies (cultured-meat startup Peace of Meat, small meat-seasoning company Solina, and small pâté-producing company Nauta) and 3 non-profit institutes (university KU Leuven, food industry innovation centre Flanders Food, and Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant).[60] With the others' assistance, Peace of Meat stated in December 2019 it seeks to complete its proof of concept in 2020, to produce its first prototype in 2022, and to enter the market in 2023.[60] That month, the Foieture project received a research grant of almost 3.6 million euros from the Innovation and Enterprise Agency of the Flemish Government.[60] In May 2020, Peace of Meat's Austrian-born cofounder and scientific researcher Eva Sommer stated that the startup was then able to produce 20 grams of cultured fat at a cost of about 300 euros (€15,000/kg); the goal was to reduce the price to 6 euros per kilogram by 2030.[61] Piece of Meat would soon build two laboratories in the Port of Antwerp.[61]

In 2019, Aleph farm collaborated with 3D bioprinting solutions to culture meat on the International Space Station, 248 miles (399 km) above the surface of the earth. This was done by extruding meat cells onto a scaffold using a 3D printer.[62]

In January 2020, Quartz claimed there were 'around 30 cultured startups around the world', and that Memphis Meats, Just Inc. and Future Meat Technologies were the most advanced because they were building the first pilot plants.[63] According to New Scientist in May 2020, there were "around 60 start-ups around the world developing and improving the cultured meat process." Some of these did not produce any clean meat themselves, but provided others with the latest technological tools or experimental information.[64] Growth media reportedly still cost "hundreds of dollars per litre, but for clean meat production to scale this needs to drop to around $1 a litre."[64] In June 2020, Chinese government officials have called for a national strategy to allow China to keep up with other countries making progress in cultured meat.[65]

Market entry[edit]

In the European Union, novel foods such as cultured meat products have to go through a testing period of about 18 months during which a company must prove to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that their product is safe before it can enter the market.[66]

On 2 December 2020, the Singapore Food Agency approved the "chicken bites" produced by Eat Just for commercial sale. It marked the first time that a cultured meat product passed the safety review (which took 2 years) of a food regulator, and was widely regarded as a milestone for the market entry of the industry after decades of research and development. The chicken bits were scheduled for small-scale introduction in Singaporean restaurants. Other products, companies and countries were expected to follow relatively soon.[67]

Overview of startups[edit]

Note: dates in italics refer to projected dates of achievement in the future; they may shift, especially due to delays.

Name Founded Area Focus Recent costs Prototype Pilot plant Market entry
Aleph Farms 2017[68]  Israel Beef Over $3,000/kg (Nov 2019 claim)[69] Dec 2018[68] Planned for 2021 (April 2020 claim)[70] 2023 (Nov 2019 claim)[69]
Ants Innovate[citation needed] 2020  Singapore Pork
Appleton Meats[citation needed] 2016  Canada Beef
Artemys Foods[citation needed] 2019  United States Meat Fall 2020[71]
Avant Meats 2018[72]  Hong Kong Fish protein November 2019[73] 2022 (Aug 2020 claim)[72]
Because, Animals[74] 2018  United States Pet food May, 2019[75]
Biftek[76] 2018[77]  Turkey Culture media
BioBQ[citation needed] 2018  United States Scaffolding 2022[78]
BlueNalu[citation needed] 2018  United States Seafood Fall 2019[79]
BioTech Foods 2017[66]  Spain Pork[66] €100/kg (July 2019 claim)[80] 2021 (July 2019 claim)[80]
Cell Ag Tech[citation needed] 2018  Canada Meat
Cell Farm Food Tech[citation needed] 2018  Argentina Meat
Cubiq Foods[citation needed] 2018  Spain Fat Sep 2019[81]
Eat Just 2011  United States Meat C. €50/nugget (Jan 2020 claim)[82] Dec 2017[83] Constructing since mid-2019 (Jan 2020 claim)[63] December 2020 (restaurants)[67]
Finless Foods 2016[84]  United States Fish $7,000/lb (Feb 2018 claim)[85] Sep 2017[85] [53]
Foieture project
(6 companies/non-profits)
2019  Belgium Foie gras €15,000/kg (May 2020 claim)[61] 2020 (Dec 2019 claim)[60] 2022 (Dec 2019 claim)[60] 2023 (Dec 2019 claim)[60]
Fork & Goode[citation needed] 2018  United States Meat
Future Fields[citation needed] 2017  Canada Culture media
Future Meat Technologies 2018  Israel Meat $10/lb (Feb 2020 goal by 2022)[86] 2019 Constructing since Oct 2019[63][87] 2022 (Oct 2019 claim)[88]
Gaia Foods[citation needed] 2019  Singapore Red meat
Gourmey[citation needed] 2019  France Fois gras
Heuros[citation needed] 2017  Australia Pet food
Higher Steaks 2017  United Kingdom Pork £'Thousands'/kg (July 2020 claim)[89] July 2020[90]
IntegriCulture, Inc. 2015  Japan Foie gras ¥20,000/kg (July 2019 claim)[91] 2021[92] 2021 (July 2020 claim)
Matrix Meats[citation needed] 2019  United States Scaffolding 2020[93]
Meatable 2018  Netherlands Pork 2020 (Jan 2020 claim)[94] Planned for early 2022 (Feb 2020 claim)[95] 2022 (Jan 2020 claim)[94]
Memphis Meats 2015  United States Poultry $1,700/lb (Feb 2018 claim)[96] Feb 2016[97] Constructing since Jan 2020[63][87] Around 2020 (Feb 2017 claim)[98]
Mirai Foods 2020   Switzerland Beef 'Small car'/kg (June 2020 claim)[99] June 2020[99]
Mosa Meat /
Maastricht University
2015  Netherlands Beef €60/kg (Feb 2017 goal by 2020)[98]
'88x cheaper' (July 2020 claim)[100]
Aug 2013 (UM)[40] Installing since May 2020[100] 2022 (Feb 2020 claim)[101]
Motif FoodWorks 2019[102]  United States Beef End 2020 (Aug 2020 claim)[103] Q4 2021 (beef flavouring) (Oct 2020 claim)[104]
Multus Media[citation needed] 2019  United Kingdom Culture media October 2019[105]
New Age Meats 2018[106]  United States Pork Sep 2018[107] Constructing after July 2020[106]
Redefine Meat 2018[68]  Israel Beef $35/kg (Sep 2019 claim)[68] Sep 2019[68]
SavorEat 2016[68]  Israel Beef Mid-2021 (restaurants) (May 2020 claim)[68]
Shiok Meats 2018[108]  Singapore Shrimp $3,500/kg (Oct 2020 claim)[109] 2019[109] 2021 (March 2020 claim)[110][108][111]
SuperMeat 2015[68]  Israel Poultry 2018[112] By 2022 (May 2020 claim)[68]
VOW Foods 2019[113]  Australia Kangaroo US$1350/kg (Aug 2019 claim)[114] Aug 2019[114] 2021 (restaurants) (Oct 2019 claim)[115]
Wildtype[citation needed] 2016  United States Seafood
A video by New Harvest / Xprize explaining the development of cultured meat and a "post-animal bio-economy, driven by lab grown protein (meat, eggs, milk)".

Aside from these companies, non-profit organisations such as New Harvest, the Good Food Institute and the Cellular Agriculture Society advocate for, fund and research cultured meat.[116]

Process[edit]

Cell lines[edit]

The first component of cellular agriculture is obtaining cell lines, generally stem cells. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells which have the potential to become many or all of the various kinds of specialized cells types. Totipotent stem cells have the capacity to differentiate into all the different cell types found within the body. Pluripotent stem cells can mature into all the different cell types, save those in the placenta and multipotent stem cells can differentiate into several different specialized cells within a limited lineage. Unipotent stem cells can only differentiate into one specific cell fate.[117]

Stem cells can differentiate into a range of specialized cells.

While pluripotent stem cells would be ideal in order to recreate the various kinds of tissue found in meat, the most prominent example of this subcategory are embryonic stem cells which — due to ethical issues — are controversial when used in research. As a result, scientists have developed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) — essentially multipotent blood and skin cells which have been reprogrammed back to a pluripotent state therefore enabling them to differentiate into a far greater range of specialized cells.[118] The alternative is using multipotent adult stem cells which are destined to give rise to muscle cell lineages or unipotent progenitors which will directly differentiate into muscle cells.[117]

Favourable characteristics of stem cells include immortality, high proliferative ability, unreliance on adherence, serum independence and easy differentiation into tissue. However, the natural presence of such characteristics are likely to differ between cell species and origin. As such, the following steps of in vitro cultivation must be adjusted to fill the exact needs of a specific cell line.  With regards to immortality, cells naturally have a limit on which they can divide which is dictated by their telomere cap — a string of supplementary nucleotide bases added to the end of their chromosomes. With each division, the telomere cap is progressively shortened until it is non existent in which case the cell ceases to divide. By inducing pluripotency, the telomere cap can be lengthened such that the cell divides indefinitely.[118] Insect cells used in entomoculture are naturally unreliant on serum-based culture media as well as adherence and so can consequently be cultured more densely in suspension cultures in comparison to mammalian cells.[119]

Cell lines can either be collected from a primary source, i.e., through a biopsy on an animal under local anesthesia. They could also be established from secondary sources such as cryopreserved cultures (cultures that have been frozen from previous research).[citation needed]

Growth medium[edit]

Myoblasts are one precursor to muscle cells, and their fibers are shown in yellow and nuclei shown in blue.

Once cell lines are established, they are immersed in a culture media in order to proliferate. Culture media are typically formulated from basal media which provide cells with all the necessary carbohydrates, fats, proteins and salts needed to grow. Once a cell consumes a sufficient amount, it will divide and the population will increase exponentially. Culture media can also be supplemented with other additives — for instance sera — which supply additional growth factors. Growth factors can be secreted proteins or steroids which are crucial in regulating certain cellular processes.[1] Typically growth factors are added to the culture media through the integration of Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) or another animal based serum or by recombinant protein production.[citation needed]

Once differentiation begins to occur, the muscle fibres will begin to contract and generate lactic acid. The ability with which cells can uptake nutrients and proliferate in part depends on the pH of their environment. To that effect, as lactic acid accumulates within the media, the environment will become progressively more acidic and fall below the optimal pH range. As a result, culture media must be frequently cleared out of the system and replaced. This is also helpful in order to refresh the concentration of nutrients from the basal media, as they are consistently depleted by the expanding cell population.[7]

Scaffold[edit]

Muscle tissue is developed from the growth medium and organized in a three-dimensional structure by the scaffold for end product.

In the case of structured meat products — products which are characterized not only by the kind of cells present but their overall configuration — cells must be seeded to scaffolds. Scaffolds are essentially molds meant to reflect and encourage the cells to organize into a larger structure. When cells develop in vivo, they are influenced by their interactions with the Extracellular Matrix (ECM). The ECM is the 3-dimensional mesh of glycoproteins, collagen and enzymes responsible for transmitting mechanical and biochemical cues to the cell. Scaffolds need to simulate the characteristics of the ECM.[1]

Porosity. Pores are minute openings on the surface of the scaffold. They can be created in order on the surface of the biomaterial in order to release pre-existing cellular components that could interfere with tissue development. They also help diffuse gas and nutrients to the innermost layers of adherent cells which prevents developing a "necrotic centre" (created when cells which are not in direct contact with the culture medium have died due to a lack of nutrients).[120]

Vascularization. Vascular tissue found in plants contains the organs responsible for internally transporting fluids. It forms natural topographies which is a low cost way of promoting cell alignment by replicating the natural physiological state of myoblasts. It may also help with gas and nutrient exchange.[120]

Biochemical Properties. A scaffold's biochemical properties should be similar to those of the ECM. It must facilitate cell adhesion through textural qualities or chemical bonding. Additionally, it must produce the chemical cues which encourage cell differentiation. Alternatively, the material should be able to blend with other substances which have these functional qualities.[120]

Crystallinity. The degree of a material's crystallinity dictates qualities such as rigidity. High crystallinity can be attributed to hydrogen bonding which in turn increases thermal stability, tensile strength (important for maintaining the scaffold's shape), water retention (important for hydrating the cells) and young's modulus.[120]

Degradation. Certain materials degrade into compounds which are beneficial to cells, although inversely, this degradation can be irrelevant or detrimental for the cells. Degradation would allow easy removal of the scaffold from the finished product so that it is purely animal tissue — thereby increasing its resemblance to in vivo meat. This degradation can be induced by exposure to certain enzymes which do not impact the muscle tissue.[120]

Edibility. If scaffolds are unable to be removed from the animal tissue, they must be edible to ensure consumer safety. In this way, it would also be beneficial if they are made out of ingredients which are nutritional.[120]

Since 2010, a number of academic research groups and companies have emerged in order to figure out what raw materials have the characteristics which would make them suitable scaffolds as well as how best to turn them into scaffolds.[120][121][122][123][124][125]

Cellulose is the most abundant polymer in nature and constitutes the exoskeletons of plant leaves. Due to its abundance, it can be obtained at a relatively low cost. It is also versatile and biocompatible. Through a process called "decellularization", it is coated in an SDS surfactant which creates pores. These pores then release the plant's cellular components, and it becomes decellularized plant tissue. This material has been extensively studied by academic researchers in the Pelling Group and Gaudette Group at the University of Ottawa and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, respectively. Through cross-linking (forming covalent bonds between individual polymer chains to hold them together) the plant tissue's mechanical properties can be changed so that it more closely resembles skeletal muscle tissue. This can also be done by blending the plant tissue with other materials. On the other hand, decellularized plant tissue typically lacks mammalian biochemical cues, so it needs to be coated with other functional proteins in order to compensate. C2C12 growth was not shown to change significantly between the bare scaffold and the same scaffold with a coating of collagen or gelatin proteins, however the seeding efficiency (rate at which cells attach to the scaffold) was improved. An advantage of decellularized plant tissue is the natural topography afforded by the vasculature in the leaves. This helps replicate the natural physiological state of the myoblasts which promotes cell alignment. The other ways of doing this are usually quite a bit more expensive including 3d printing, soft lithography and photolithography. Vascularization can also help overcome the 100–200 nm diffusion limit of culture medium into cells which usually produces necrotic centres in muscle conglomerates. Another way to do this is by having a porous scaffold which supports angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels). While this has been shown to work for Apple Hypanthium, not all plants are nearly as porous. The alternative to plant cellulose is bacterial cellulose which is typically more pure than plant cellulose as it is free from contaminants like lignin and hemicellulose. Bacterial cellulose has more hydrogen bonding between its polymer strands and so it has greater crystallinity. It also has smaller microfibrils which allow it to retain more moisture and have smaller pores. The substance itself can be produced using waste carbohydrates (which may suggest it can be achieved at a reduced cost) and it causes juiciness and chewiness in emulsified meat (which would mean that even if it can't be taken out of the final product, it will contribute to the texture profile).[120][121]

Chitin is the second most abundant polymer in nature and is found in the exoskeletons of crustaceans and fungi. As cellular agriculture is interested in being unreliant on animals, chitin derived from fungi is of greater interest. It has mostly been studied by the aforementioned Pelling Group. Chitosan is derived from chitin in a process known as alkaline deacetylation (substituting out certain amino acid groups). The degree of this process determines the physical and chemical properties of the chitosan. Chitosan has antibacterial properties, in particular, it has bactericidal effects on planktonic bacteria and biofilms and a bacteria static effects on gram negative bacteria like E.coli. This is important as it neutralizes compounds which are potentially harmful for humans to eat without using antibiotics which many consumers prefer to stay away from. Chitosan's resemblance to glycosaminoglycans and internal interactions between glycoproteins and proteoglycans make it highly biocompatible. It can also be easily blended with other polymers in order to select for more bioactive factors. One potential disadvantage of chitosan is that it degrades in the presence of lysozymes (naturally occurring enzymes). But, this can be resisted using the deacetylation process. This is not entirely a negative thing, as the byproducts produced through degradation have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It is just important to match the level that cells rely on the matrix for structure with degradation.[120]

Collagen is a family of proteins that makes up the primary structure of connective tissue. It is typically derived from bovine, porcine and murine sources. As these are all animal sources, cellular agriculture overcomes this through the use of transgenic organisms which are capable of producing the amino acid repeats which make up the collagen. Collagen naturally exists as Collagen type I and has been produced as porous hydrogels, composites and substrates with topographical cues and biochemical properties. Synthetic kinds of collagen have also been produced through recombinant protein production — Collagen type II and III, tropoelastin and fibronectin. One main challenge with these proteins is that they can not be modified post translation. However, an alternative fibrillar protein has been isolated in microbes which lack collagen's biochemical cues but has this kind of gene customizability. A big focus of recombinant collagen production is yield optimization — how it can be produced most effectively. Plants, in particular, tobacco look like the most promising option, however, bacteria and yeast are also viable alternatives.[120]

Textured soy protein is a soy flour product often used in plant-based meat which has been shown to support the growth of bovine cells by the Levenberg Group at the Israel Institute of Technology. Its spongy texture enables efficient cell seeding and its porosity encourages oxygen transfer. Additionally, it degrades during cell differentiation into compounds that are beneficial to certain cells.[122]

Mycelium are the roots of mushrooms. Altast Foods Co. is using solid state fermentation in order to grow mushroom tissue on mycelium scaffolds. They then harvest this tissue and use it to create bacon analogs.[123]

Nanomaterials are materials which exhibit unique properties at the nanoscale. Biomimetic Solutions — a London based scaffold currently involved in the SoSV incubator — is leveraging nanomaterials in order to create scaffolds.[122]

Cass Materials in Perth, Australia is using a dietary fibre called Nata de Coco (derived from coconuts) to create nanocellulose sponges for their BNC scaffold. Nata de Coco is biocompatible, has a high porosity, facilitates cell adhesion and is biodegradable.[124]

Immersion Jet Spinning is a method of creating scaffolds by spinning polymers into fibres initially developed by the Parker Group at Harvard University. iRJS platform uses centrifugal force to extrude a polymer solution through an opening in a rotating reservoir. During extrusion, the solution forms a jet which elongates and aligns as it is shot through the air gap. The jet is directed into a vortex-controlled precipitation bath which chemically cross links or precipitates polymer nanofibers. By adjusting parameters like air gap, rotation and the solution, we can change the diameter of the resulting fibres. This method can spin scaffolds out of PPTA, nylon, DNA and nanofiber sheets. A nanofibrous scaffold made this way out of alginate and gelatin was able to support the growth of C2C12 cells. Rabbit and bovine aortic smooth muscle myoblasts were also able to adhere to the gelatin fibres. They formed aggregates on shorter fibres, and aligned tissue on the longer ones.[125]

A company called Matrix Meats is using electrospinning — a process that uses electric force to turn charged polymers into fibres for scaffolds. Their scaffolds have been shown to allow meat marbling, is compatible with multiple cell lines and is scalable.[126]

Additive manufacturing[edit]

Another proposed way of structuring muscle tissue is additive manufacturing. Such a technique has already been perfected for industrial applications in manufacturing objects made out of plastic, nylon, metal, glass and other synthetic materials. The most common variation of the process involves incrementally depositing a filament in layers onto a bed until the whole object is created. This method will most likely lend itself best to the application of cultured meat as opposed to other types such as binder jetting, material jetting or stereolithography which require a specific kind of resin or powder.[citation needed]

In this instance, a filament of muscle cells can be printed into a structure meant to resemble a finished meat product which can then be further processed for cell maturation. This technique has been demonstrated in a collaboration between 3D bioprinting solutions and Aleph Farms which successfully used additive manufacturing to structure turkey cells on the International Space Station.[127]

Bioreactors[edit]

Potential bioreactor configuration for cultured meat

Scaffolds are placed inside bioreactors so that cell growth and specialization can occur. Bioreactors are large machines similar to brewery tanks which expose the cells to a large variety of environmental factors that are necessary to promote either proliferation or differentiation. The temperature of the bioreactor must replicate in vivo conditions. In the case of mammalian cells, this requires heating to 37 degrees Celsius. Alternatively, insect cells can be grown at room temperature. Most bioreactors are maintained at 5% carbon dioxide.[1][119]

Cells can either be cultivated in continuous or fed-batch systems. The former entails inoculating and harvesting cells in a constant process so that there are always cells in the bioreactor. Fed-batch systems mean inoculating the cells, culturing them and harvesting them in one distinct period.[1]

Stirred tank bioreactors are the most widely used configuration in which an impeller increases the flow, thereby homogenizing the culture media and a diffuser facilitates the exchange of oxygen into the media. This system is generally used for suspended cultures but can also be used for cells that require attachment to another surface if microcarriers are also included. Fixed bed bioreactors are commonly used for adherent cultures. They feature strips of fibres that are packed together to form a bed to which cells can attach. Aerated culture media is circulated through the bed. In airlift bioreactors, the culture media is aerated into a gaseous form using air bubbles which are then scattered and dispersed amongst the cells. Perfusion bioreactors are common configurations for continuous cultivation. They continuously drain media saturated with lactic acid that is void of nutrients and fill it with replenished media.[128]

Fermentation[edit]

The elements outlined above apply to the cultivation of animal muscle tissue. However, cellular agriculture also extends to "acellular agriculture" which involves the production of animal products synthesized of non-living material. Such products include milk, honey, eggs, cheese, gelatin which are made of various proteins rather than cells. In such cases, these proteins must be fermented much like in recombinant protein production, alcohol brewing and the generation of many plant-based products like tofu, tempeh and sauerkraut.[129]

The Impossible Burger was made with fermented heme proteins.

Firstly, as proteins are coded for by specific genes, the genes encoding for the protein of interest are synthesized into a plasmid — a closed loop of double helical genetic information. This plasmid, called the recombinant DNA, is then inserted into a bacterial specimen using genetic transformation. For this to happen, the bacteria needs to be competent (i.e. able to intake foreign, extracellular DNA) and able to horizontally transfer genes (i.e. integrate the foreign genes into its own DNA). Horizontal gene transfer is significantly more challenging in eukaryotic organisms than prokaryotic organisms because eukaryotic organisms have both a cell membrane and a nuclear membrane which the plasmid needs to penetrate whereas prokaryotic organisms only have a cell membrane. For this reason, prokaryotic bacteria are often favoured. In order to make such a bacteria temporarily competent, it can be exposed to a salt such as calcium chloride which neutralizes the negative charges on the cell membrane's phosphate heads as well as the negative charges on the plasmid to prevent the two from repelling. Then, the bacteria can incubate in warm water, opening up large pores on the surface of the cell through which the plasmid can enter.[130]

Next, the bacteria is fermented on sugar which will encourage it to grow and duplicate and in the process it will express its DNA as well as the transferred plasmid resulting in protein.[131]

Finally, the solution is purified in order to separate out the residual protein. This can be done by introducing an antibody raised against the protein of interest which will kill bacteria cells not containing the protein. Through centrifugation, the solution can be spun around an axis with a sufficient amount of force to separate solids from liquids or it could be soaked in a well buffered ionic solution that employs osmosis to leach the water from bacteria and kill them.[132]

Challenges[edit]

Growth factors[edit]

The culture media is an essential component of in vitro cultivation. It is responsible for providing the macromolecules, nutrients and growth factors necessary for cell proliferation. Sourcing growth factors is one of the most challenging aspects of cellular agriculture. Traditionally, it involves the use of fetal bovine serum (FBS) which is a blood product extracted from fetal dairy cows. Besides the argument that its production is unethical, it is also contradictory to the initial goal of cellular agriculture to be independent of the use of animals. It is also the most costly constituent of cultured meat, priced at around $1000 per litre. Furthermore, its chemical composition varies greatly depending on the animal, so it cannot be uniformly quantified chemically.[133] The reason fetal bovine serum is employed is because it conveniently mimics the process of muscle development in vivo. The growth factors needed for tissue development are predominantly provided through an animal's bloodstream, and there is no other known fluid which can single-handedly deliver all these components.[1]

The current alternative is to generate each of these growth factors individually using recombinant protein production. In this process, the genes coding for the specific factor are integrated into bacteria which is then fermented to express an abundance of the molecule. However, due to the added complexity of this process, it is particularly expensive.[1]

The ideal culture medium would be chemically quantifiable and accessible to ensure simplicity in production, cheap and not dependent on animals.[27] Such culture media will most likely be derived from plants and while this may reduce the possibility of transmitting infectious agents, there is also the possibility that they may induce allergic reactions in some consumers.[134] Such culture sera may also require modifications specific to the cell line to which it is applied. There are a variety of companies currently invested in developing effective plant based culture, including Future Fields, Multus Media and Biftek.[135][136][137]

Surface area[edit]

A common challenge to bioreactors and scaffolds is developing system configurations that enable all cells to gain exposure to culture media while simultaneously optimizing spatial requirements. In the cell proliferation phase, prior to the introduction of the scaffold, many cell types need to be attached to a surface in order to support growth. As such, cells must be grown in confluent monolayers only one cell thick which necessitates a lot of surface area. This poses practicality challenges on large scales. As such, systems may incorporate microcarriers — small spherical beads of glass or other compatible material which are suspended in the culture medium. Cells adhere to these microcarriers as they would the sides of the bioreactor which increases the amount of available surface area.[138]

In the cell differentiation phase, the cells may be seeded to a scaffold and so do not require the use of microcarriers. However, in these instances, the density of the cells on the scaffold means that not all cells have an interface with culture media, leading to cell death and necrotic centers within the meat. When muscle is cultivated in vivo, this issue is circumvented as the ECM delivers nutrients into the muscle through blood vessels. As such, many emerging scaffolds are aiming to replicate such networks.[138]

Similarly, scaffolds must simulate many of the other characteristics of the ECM, most notably porosity, crystallinity, degradation, biocompatibility and functionality. Few materials which emulate all these characteristics have been identified leading to the possibility of blending different materials with complementary properties.[120]

Research support[edit]

As cellular agriculture is not widely considered a developed field, research does not have a significant basis of academic interest or funding streams.[8] Consequently, the majority of research in the space has been undertaken and funded by independent institutions. However, this is incrementally changing as non for profits drive support and interest in the field. Notably, New Harvest has a fellowship program to support the research of specific graduate students and groups at various academic institutions.[139]

Consumer acceptance[edit]

Cultured meat will likely be exposed to the public on a global scale in the coming years, making consumer acceptance of the product an important concern.[140] Research is being done to identify how consumers will accept cultured meat into the market. A study looking at acceptance of cultured meat in China, India, and the USA "found high levels of acceptance of clean meat in the three most populous countries worldwide."[141]

Several potential factors of consumer acceptance of cultured meat have been identified. Healthiness, safety, nutritional characteristics, sustainability, taste, and lower price, are all potential factors.[142] One study found that the use of highly technical language to explain cultured meat led to significantly more negative public attitude towards the concept.[143] Similarly, it is suggested that describing cultured meat in a way that emphasizes the final product rather than the production method was an effective way to improve acceptance.[144] Low percentages of older adult populations have been reported to show acceptance for cultured meat. Green eating behavior, educational status, and food business, were cited as most important factors for this population.[145]

The use of standardized descriptions would improve future research about consumer acceptance of cultured meat. Current studies have often reported drastically different rates of acceptance of the product, despite surveying similar populations. More comparable research is considered a future goal for consumer acceptance studies of cultured meat.[146]

It is currently unknown how cultured meat will be received in worldwide markets. Large amounts of studies are attempting to determine the current levels of consumer acceptance and identify methods to improve this value. Currently there is a lack of clear answers surrounding this unknown, although a recent study has shown that consumers are willing to pay a premium for cultured meat.[147][148][143][145][142][144][149]

Regulations[edit]

Once cultured meat becomes more cost-efficient, it is necessary to decide who will regulate the safety and standardization of these products. Prior to being available for sale, the European Union and Canada will require approved novel food applications. Additionally, the European Union requires that cultured animal products and production must prove safety, by an approved company application, which became effective as of 1 January 2018.[150]

Within the United States, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) have agreed to jointly regulate cultured meat. Under the agreement, the FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation, while the USDA oversees the production and labeling of human food products derived from the cells.[151]

Differences from conventional meat[edit]

Health[edit]

Large-scale production of cultured meat may or may not require artificial growth hormones to be added to the culture for meat production.[152][153]

Researchers have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids could be added to cultured meat as a health bonus.[33] In a similar way, the omega-3 fatty acid content of conventional meat can also be increased by altering what the animals are fed.[154] An issue of Time magazine has suggested that the cell-cultured process may also decrease exposure of the meat to bacteria and disease.[34]

Due to the strictly controlled and predictable environment, cultured meat production has been compared to vertical farming, and some of its proponents have predicted that it will have similar benefits in terms of reducing exposure to dangerous chemicals like pesticides and fungicides, severe injuries, and wildlife.[155]

Artificiality[edit]

Although cultured meat is real meat consisting of genuine animal muscle cells, fat and support cells, as well as blood vessels,[156] that are the same in traditional meat, some consumers may find the high-tech production process repugnant. Cultured meat has been described as fake or "Frankenmeat".[157] On the other hand, clean meat can be produced without the artificial hormones, antibiotics, steroids, medicine, and GMOs commonly used in factory farmed meat and seafood.

If a cultured meat product is different in appearance, taste, smell, texture, or other factors, it may not be commercially competitive with conventionally produced meat. The lack of bone and cardiovascular system may be a disadvantage for dishes where these parts make appreciable culinary contributions. However, the lack of bones and/or blood may make many traditional meat preparations, such as buffalo wings, more palatable to some people. Furthermore, cultured blood and bones could potentially be produced in the future as well. [158][159][160]

Environmental[edit]

There have historically been concerns from the United Nations about the unrelenting production of traditional meat production for the growing world population. Animal production for food has been one of the major causes of air/water pollution and global warming.[161] There is significant doubt that the traditional industry will be able to keep up with the rapidly increasing demands for meat, pushing many entrepreneurs and researchers towards development of cultured meat as an alternative.[162] Cultured meat looks to provide an environmentally conscious alternative to traditional meat production.[163]

Research has suggested that environmental impacts of cultured meat would be significantly lower than normally slaughtered beef.[164] For every hectare that is used for vertical farming and/or cultured meat manufacturing, anywhere between 10 and 20 hectares of land may be converted from conventional agriculture usage back into its natural state.[165] Vertical farms (in addition to cultured meat facilities) could exploit methane digesters to generate a small portion of its own electrical needs. Methane digesters could be built on site to transform the organic waste generated at the facility into biogas which is generally composed of 65% methane along with other gasses. This biogas could then be burned to generate electricity for the greenhouse or a series of bioreactors.[166]

A study by researchers at Oxford and the University of Amsterdam found that cultured meat was "potentially ... much more efficient and environmentally-friendly", generating only 4% greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the energy needs of meat generation by up to 45%, and requiring only 2% of the land that the global meat/livestock industry does.[167][168] The patent holder Willem van Eelen,[169] the journalist Brendan I. Koerner,[170] and Hanna Tuomisto, a PhD student from Oxford University all believe it has less environmental impact.[171] In Tuomisto's life cycle analysis done at the University of Helsinki, producing 1000 kg of meat conventionally is expected to require "26–33 GJ energy, 367–521 m³ water, 190–230 m² land, and emits 1900–2240 kg CO2-eq GHG emissions". On the other hand, producing the same quantity of meat in vitro has "7–45% lower energy use… 78–96% lower GHG emissions, 99% lower land use, and 82–96% lower water use".[172]

One skeptic is Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who speculates that the energy and fossil fuel requirements of large-scale cultured meat production may be more environmentally destructive than producing food off the land.[31] However, S.L. Davis has speculated that both vertical farming in urban areas and the activity of cultured meat facilities may cause relatively little harm to the species of wildlife that live around the facilities.[173] Dickson Despommier speculated that natural resources may be spared from depletion due to vertical farming and cultured meat, making them ideal technologies for an overpopulated world.[174] One study has shown that conventional farming kills ten wildlife animals per hectare each year.[173]

Role of genetic modification[edit]

Techniques of genetic engineering, such as insertion, deletion, silencing, activation, or mutation of a gene, are not required to produce cultured meat. Cultured meat production allows the biological processes that normally occur within an animal to occur without the animal. Since cultured meat is grown in a controlled, artificial environment, some have commented that cultured meat more closely resembles hydroponic vegetables, rather than GMO vegetables.[175]

More research is being done on cultured meat, and although the production of cultured meat does not require techniques of genetic engineering, there is discussion among researchers about utilizing such techniques to improve the quality and sustainability of cultured meat. Fortifying cultured meat with nutrients such as beneficial fatty acids is one improvement that can be facilitated through genetic modification. The same improvement can be made without genetic modification, by manipulating the conditions of the culture medium.[176] Genetic modification may also play a role in the proliferation of muscle cells. The introduction of myogenic regulatory factors, growth factors, or other gene products into muscle cells may increase production past the capacity of conventional meat.[176]

To avoid the use of any animal products, the use of photosynthetic algae and cyanobacteria has been proposed to produce the main ingredients for the culture media, as opposed to the very commonly used fetal bovine or horse serum.[177] Some researchers suggest that the ability of algae and cyanobacteria to produce ingredients for culture media can be improved with certain technologies, most likely not excluding genetic engineering.[178]

Ethical[edit]

The Australian bioethicist Julian Savulescu said, "Artificial meat stops cruelty to animals, is better for the environment, could be safer and more efficient, and even healthier. We have a moral obligation to support this kind of research. It gets the ethical two thumbs up."[179] Animal welfare groups are generally in favor of the production of cultured meat because the culture process does not include a nervous system and therefore there is no pain or infringement of rights.[31][180][181] Reactions of vegetarians to cultured meat vary.[182] Some feel the cultured meat presented to the public in August 2013 was not vegetarian because fetal bovine serum was used in the growth medium.[183] However, since then, cultured meat has been grown with a medium that does not involve bovine serum.[184] American philosopher Carlo Alvaro argues that the question of the morality of eating in vitro meat has been discussed only in terms of convenience. Alvaro proposes a virtue-oriented approach, suggesting that the obstinacy of wanting to produce lab-grown meat stems from unvirtuous motives, i.e., "lack of temperance and misunderstanding of the role of food in human flourishing."[185]

Some have proposed independent inquiries into the standards, laws, and regulations for cultured meat.[186]

Just as with many other foods, cultured meat needs technically sophisticated production methods that may be difficult for some communities, meaning they would lack self-sufficiency and be dependent on global food corporations.[187]

Religious considerations[edit]

Jewish rabbinical authorities disagree whether cultured meat is kosher, meaning acceptable under Jewish law and practice. One factor is the nature of the animal from which the cells are sourced, whether it is a kosher or non-kosher species and whether, if the cells were taken from a dead animal, religious slaughter had taken place prior to the extraction of cells. Most authorities agree that if the original cells were taken from a religiously slaughtered animal then the cultured meat will be kosher.[188] Depending on the nature of the cells, it may be determined to be kosher even when taken from a live animal, and some have argued that it would be kosher even if coming from non-kosher animals like pigs.[11]

There is also a discussion about how it fits into Islamic dietary practices.[189] The Islamic Institute of Orange County in California said, "There does not appear to be any objection to eating this type of cultured meat."[190] In addition, Abdul Qahir Qamar of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy said that cultured meat "will not be considered meat from live animals, but will be cultured meat." For cells derived from pigs, dogs, and other haram animals, the meat would be considered vegetative and "similar to yogurt and fermented pickles."[190]

Hinduism typically excludes the consumption of beef, such as steak and burgers. Chandra Kaushik, president of the Hindu Mahasabha, said about cultured beef that he would "not accept it being traded in a marketplace in any form or being used for a commercial purpose."[190]

Economic[edit]

At the moment, cultured meat is estimated to be significantly more costly than conventional meat — for instance, the first cultured burger in 2013 cost upwards of $330,000 USD. In a March 2015 interview with Australia's ABC, Mark Post said that the marginal cost of his team's original €250,000 burger was now €8.00. He estimates that technological advancements would allow the product to be cost-competitive to traditionally sourced beef in approximately ten years.[191] In 2016, the cost of production of cultured beef for food technology company Memphis Meats was $18,000 per pound ($40,000/kg).[192] As of June 2017, Memphis Meats reduced the cost of production to below $2,400 per pound ($5,280/kg),[193] in February 2018 to $1,700 per pound and even further after that.[96] In 2019, Eat Just said it cost about US$50 to produce one chicken nugget.[194]

Still, the main cost driver in cultured meat is the culture media due to the incorporation of the aforementioned FBS and other animal sera or reliance on alternative protein production. This issue is compounded due to the quantity of culture media that is necessitated. There are a number of organizations working on decreasing the cost of culture media either by scaling recombinant protein production to make it more efficient or finding more cost-effective alternatives and configurations to current ingredients.

Continuing development[edit]

Education[edit]

Since Dr. Post successfully produced the first cultured meat burger in 2013, a variety of startups and organizations dedicated to developing or advancing cultured meat have been founded. In 2015, Maastricht University hosted the first International Conference on Cultured Meat.[195] New Harvest[196] — a 501(c)(3) research institute — as well as The Good Food Institute[197] host annual conferences to convene industry leaders, scientists, investors, and potential collaborators from parallel industries. The two organizations also fund public research and produce educational content. Organizations such as the Cellular Agriculture Society, Cellular Agriculture Canada, Cellular Agriculture France, Cellular Agriculture Australia and Cellular agriculture New Zealand were founded to advocate for cultured meat in their respective countries. Publications such as Cell Agri and the Protein Report have also emerged in order to provide updates concerning the technology and business within the field.[citation needed]

Research[edit]

At Tufts University, PhD candidate Natalie Rubio is conducting research into the field of entomoculture – cellular agriculture specifically applied to culturing insect tissue. Insect cultures may have comparative benefits over mammalian cells in terms of their environmental tolerance, ability to proliferate in serum free media, ability to grow in suspension and increased nutritional profile. The aim of my research is to develop a three-dimensional culture system for insect tissue biofabrication with consideration for food applications and to do this, Natalie is focusing on (1) cell line development and serum-free media formulation, (2) scaffold fabrication and (3) nutrient and texture analysis. Also at Tufts University, PhD candidate and New Harvest Dissertation Awardee Mike McLelland has developed an interactome map of cardiac tissue in order to identify the active trophic factors provided to cells when they are grown in animal sera. The idea is to clone these trophic factors in other cells called "Trophic Support Cells" and coculture them alongside other cells. [198]

At the Newcastle University, Dr. Ricardo M Gouveia is investigating the effect of curved substrates on controlling the behaviour of stromal cells during growth in vitro. He has thus far found that curvature is a cost-effective way to promote migration, proliferation, and self-organization. Such characteristics will ultimately help to improve the palatability of culture meat.[198]

Fat is an integral component of inducing meat texture, taste and appeal however, a cultured meat product that features marbling — the interspersion of fat and muscle — has yet to be developed. Muscle and fat cells require different cues in order to grow effectively. At the University of California, Los Angeles, Stephanie Kaweki is working on tuning scaffold properties so that they can support the growth of both muscle and fat cells.[198]

At the University of Ottawa, the Pelling Lab is working on creating an open-source, plant-based scaffolding platform to support the 3D culture of mammalian cells promote cell invasion and proliferation, and retain shape and mechanical properties for several months in culture. They are specifically investigating plant cellulose as it is the most abundant polymer on earth. Thus far, they have achieved results demonstrating that such a material is effective at stimulating certain characteristics such as topography and vascularization.[198]

At Rice University, Andrew Stout is conducting research into the nutritional profile of cultured meat. Specifically, he is examining the possibility of using genetic engineering and bioprocessing techniques to enhance the nutritional quality of the resulting muscle tissue.[198]

To date, many of the bioreactors used in cultured meat research have been at lab scale. The bioreactors used at the industrial level must be larger and in order to design them, we have to better understand the parameters muscle tissue relies on. At the University of Bath, Scott Allan is aiming to understand reaction kinetics, transport phenomena, mass transfer limitations and metabolic stoichiometric requirements, to name a few.[198]

At Reutlinger University, PhD candidate Jannis Wollschlager is working on creating a meat bioprinting process that will process both muscle and fat. The technique will leverage computer assisted design models, co-culture media which support muscle and fat cells as well as animal free bio-inks suitable to the cell types.[198]

Accelerators and incubators[edit]

There are a variety of venture capital firms and accelerator/incubator programs which focus on assisting cultured technology startups, or plant-based protein companies in general. The Big Idea Ventures (BIV) Venture Capital firm has launched their New Protein Fund which invests in emerging cell and plant-based food companies in New York and Singapore. With plans to start their third round of accelerator companies in January 2021, they have previously invested in MeliBio, Actual Veggies, Biftek.co, Orbillion Bio, Yoconut, Evo, WildFor and Novel Farms, to name a few.[199] Indie Bio is a biology oriented accelerator program that has invested in Memphis Meats, Geltor, New Age Meats and Finless Foods. They are based in San Francisco and are currently running their 10th cohort of companies.[200]

In popular culture[edit]

In fiction[edit]

Cultured meat has often featured in science fiction. The earliest mention may be in Two Planets (1897) by Kurd Lasswitz, where "synthetic meat" is one of the varieties of synthetic food introduced on Earth by Martians. Other notable books mentioning artificial meat include Ashes, Ashes (1943) by René Barjavel; The Space Merchants (1952) by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980) by Douglas Adams; Le Transperceneige (Snowpiercer) (1982) by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette; Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson; Oryx and Crake (2003) by Margaret Atwood; Deadstock (2007) by Jeffrey Thomas; Accelerando (2005) by Charles Stross; Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker; Divergent (2011) by Veronica Roth; and the Vorkosigan Saga (1986-2018) by Lois McMaster Bujold.[citation needed]

In film, artificial meat has featured prominently in Giulio Questi's 1968 drama La morte ha fatto l'uovo (Death Laid an Egg) and Claude Zidi's 1976 comedy L'aile ou la cuisse (The Wing or the Thigh). "Man-made" chickens also appear in David Lynch's 1977 surrealist horror, Eraserhead. Most recently, it was also featured prominently as the central theme of the movie Antiviral (2012).[citation needed]

The Starship Enterprise from the TV and movie franchise Star Trek apparently provides a synthetic meat or cultured meat as a food source for the crew,[201] although crews from The Next Generation and later use replicators.[citation needed]

In the ABC sitcom Better Off Ted (2009–2010), the episode "Heroes" features Phil (Jonathan Slavin) and Lem (Malcolm Barrett) trying to grow cowless beef.[citation needed]

In the videogame Project Eden, the player characters investigate a cultured meat company called Real Meat.[citation needed]

In the movie "GalaxyQuest", during the dinner scene, Tim Allen's character refers to his steak tasting like "real Iowa beef".[citation needed]

In The Expanse "vat-grown" meat is produced to feed the people who live on spaceships/space stations away from Earth, due to the exorbitant cost of importing real meat.[citation needed]

Cultured meat was a subject on an episode of the Colbert Report on 17 March 2009.[202]

In February 2014, a biotech startup called BiteLabs ran a campaign to generate popular support for artisanal salami made with meat cultured from celebrity tissue samples.[203] The campaign became popular on Twitter, where users tweeted at celebrities asking them to donate muscle cells to the project.[204] Media reactions to BiteLabs variously identified the startup as a satire on startup culture,[205] celebrity culture,[206] or as a discussion prompt on bioethical concerns.[207] While BiteLabs claimed to be inspired by the success of Sergey Brin's burger, the company is seen as an example of critical design rather than an actual business venture.[citation needed]

In late 2016, cultured meat was involved in a case in the episode "How The Sausage Is Made" of CBS show Elementary.[citation needed]

Cultured meat was profiled in the 2020 Canadian documentary film Meat the Future.[208]

In the 2020 videogame Cyberpunk 2077, there are multiple cultured meat products for sale, due to the cost of natural meat being astronomical in the setting. This includes "EEZYBEEF", made from in vitro cultured muscle cells taken from cattle, and the flatworm culture based "Orgiatic" which comes in several flavors. Selling organically produced meat is illegal in most cases, ostensibly due to the risk of infectious zoonosis causing a pandemic. However, the rich are still able to get their hands on it. In light of that fact, it's very likely AllFoods, the company that produced EEZYBEEF and Orgiatic (as well as myriad of other processed food products) doesn't like the prospect of food that can reproduce over and over independent of them and their production lines and lobbied for it to be outlawed.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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