Eating meat does not need to mean taking the innocent lives of animals in the near future. Technological advancement has allowed scientists to develop meat from animal stem cells. Astonishing right? In 2013, the first cultivated meat burger was unveiled on live television by scientist Mark Post. Two years after its unveiling, the first four cultivated meat companies were founded. This is an industry experiencing immense growth from 4 to 60 companies in 6 continents with $450M+ investments.
The burning question is, what is this invention of cultivated meat?
It is absolutely genuine meat produced by cultivating animal cells eliminating the need for farming animals for food. Leading to guilt-free non-vegetarian meals.
Cultivated meat uses less land and water which will help overcome the issue of water and land scarcity. It also helps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions preventing the depletion of the ozone layer. Cultivated meat will also remove agriculture-related pollution and eutrophication.
Too good to be true isn't it?
So what is the secret process? Not much of a secret but, the stem cells of animals are grown in bioreactors at high volumes and densities. The cells are fed an oxygen-rich cell culture made up of basic nutrients while being supplemented with proteins. Due to changes in medium composition, the cells differentiate into skeletal muscle, fat and connective tissues that make up meat. The differentiated cells are then harvested, prepared, and packed to be sold. It takes about 2-8 weeks, depending on the meat.
This commercial process is expected to result in fewer food born illnesses due to reduced exposure to enteric pathogens.
Now you might be wondering, when will the cultivated meat hit the market? Singapore Food Agency approved the world’s first cultivated meat product for sale in December 2020. Shortly after, the 1880 restaurant in Singapore, marked the historic first commercial sale of the approved cultivated chicken bite. In India, (2018), Union Minister Maneka Gandhi advised the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology Hyderabad to produce “ahimsa” or cultivated meat on a commercial scale in the next five years. But due to the pandemic, the process seems to have slowed down.
Future technological developments and optimization will allow to reduce costs of production and allow the gates for bigger commercial sales for cultivated meat.