If they can grow muscle, can they make meat?
Modern Meadow is a startup based in Brooklyn, New York. They are aiming to commercialize leather and meat products that are not made from slaughtered animals but brewed in cell-culture vats. If it works, and if the market embraces the resulting products, it would lead to vast savings in water, land, and energy use associated with livestock production.
Company CEO and cofounder Andras Forgacs—who previously cofounded Organovo, a company that uses 3-D printers to create human tissue for biomedical applications—spoke today at EmTech and later sat down with David Talbot, chief correspondent of MIT Technology Review.
What’s the idea behind Modern Meadow?
The company was founded to expand the ideas from biomedical tissue engineering: if we can grow skin, can we make leather? If we can grow muscle, can we make meat? We’ve now done so—and are working with chefs and leather artisans to perfect our materials. We’re a materials company, and our near-term focus is on leather. You want to make sure we have high quality and have achieved the right kind of material, and then develop a process that can scale.
But you’ve also been making batches of snacks you are calling “steak chips” made from cow muscle cells, with flavors like teriyaki and shiitake mushroom. You didn’t bring any. When will they be ready?
I have to ask. Could I take a few muscle cells out of my arm, and …
Ah, the Hannibal Lecter question. Could we do it? Of course it could be done. But we take bioethics seriously, and it’s not something we would do. We’re trying to make the idea of meat breweries become normal and appealing. That’s probably not the best way to do it.
Photo credit: Pundit From Another Planet