A burger made with cultured meat.
By 2030, the average person is expected to consume around 45 pounds of meat annually, according to a study from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That’s a number that rises substantially in the United States. The strain that will put on the planet is extreme, to say the least. But according to developing lab science, soon you can have your burger and eat it too.
What is cultured meat?
Scientists are already on the slow road to 3-D printing human organs. If you have the equipment to print human muscle, you have what you need to grow edible meat. All you need is DNA from the animal you want to print.
Lab-grown meat, also known as in vitro meat or cultured beef, is the product of animal cells taken from a living creature, placed in a petri dish and fed until they multiply and create new muscle tissue for human consumption. That’s the theory, at least, of Mark Post, a professor of tissue engineering at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and the father of the sub-$12 bioengineered burger. Post found he could take 20,000 strands of meat cells to create a regular patty.
While his work is perhaps the most well known, smaller firms have started to rise in his wake, including programs specifically set out to find and fund other cultured meat research.
New Harvest, a charity based in New York, funds researchers in academia and small companies trying to build a viable post-animal bio-economy — that is to say, a world where lab-grown animal meat is a frequent scientific pursuit.
“When people think of cultured meat, they think of a single product coming on market and that’s the end of it,” Isha Datar, CEO of New Harvest, told Mic. “We’re thinking of a sustainable environment where there’s an established academic community dedicated to cultured meat research. That community is a vibrant industry with many different players working toward the goal of making animal products without animals.”
There’s no reason this kind of research couldn’t contribute to the American dream of a perfect burger. One with a tiny carbon footprint, no dead animals in its wake, no carcinogens and, best of all, totally kosher.
It’s the American dream, grown in a lab.
Will lab-grown meat be low-fat?
As long as there’s a market for low-fat meat, it will be made. Actually, it’s pretty easy to do.
Here’s one of the coolest parts about developing meat in a lab: Tissue is grown piece by piece, so you can customize the final product, the precise combination of fat and muscle. “You could either co-culture, so the muscle and fat are grown together, or grow muscle tissue in one place and fat tissue in another and mix them together afterward,” Datar explained to Mic. It “allows you a level of control” that would be tough to replicate with animals.
So how do scientists replicate the marbling on a nice steak? It’s actually saturated fatty acid, the kind that contributes to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Making your own fat in a lab means you can change the type — though unsaturated fats tend to come as liquid and don’t have the structural reliability of the thicker saturated fats. “If they are going to make their own fats,” Joan Salge Blake, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told the Atlantic, “they will be able to replace the saturated fatty acids with, for example, omega-3 fatty acids,” or the ones found in fish and eggs.
Just like with your milk and butter, your burgers could also come in different versions, such as “no cholesterol” and “no saturated fats.”
Image and article via Tech.Mic