Cultured meat could be a sustainable, healthy and inexpensive food alternative in a future that might be closer than we think.
We recently attended the 2nd International Conference on Cultured Meat, where we had the chance to meet the key players in this revolutionary field. There, we learned that cultured meat, grown in the lab without the need of a cow but with the same composition as regular meat, can significantly reduce water, land and antibiotic use, as well as decrease greenhouse emissions.
The feat of growing meat without cows seems utterly futuristic, but you could be buying it in the supermarket really soon. Mark Post, professor at Maastricht University and pioneer of lab-grown meat, stated earlier this week: “We now have an investor lined up from the food industry. We estimate it will take 3-4 years to get hamburgers to the market, that will still be small-scale at £10-11 for a hamburger.”
This will represent a huge advancement considering that the first cow-less burger, cooked and tasted live in London back in 2013, cost around €300,000 to grow. He reckons that further advancements will take the price down, hitting the supermarket 7 years from now and potentially making the lab-grown meat even cheaper than cow meat.
The animal-free burgers are made by expanding muscle cells from cows in vitro. As Mark Post commented, the final recipe still needs some tweaking, such as adding fat cells to contribute to the final flavor and texture of the burger. The main challenge at the moment is scaling up the production process, a key step to reduce the final price of cow-less meat.
Mark Post is not the only one growing animal-free food, though. In the US, Memphis Meats is also trying to grow burgers, of both pork and beef, while Clara Foods grows egg white and Perfect Day (previously Muufri) develops a cow-free version of milk that could be healthier and suitable for lactose intolerant people. Clearly, lab-grown food is definitely no longer a sci-fi topic, but a field that is getting ready to hit the supermarket shelves very soon.
Images from Maastricht University