Your Burger May Be Grown in a Lab by 2021
Companies have already successfully grown meat in labs. Now, they hope to make it more affordable.
As communities around the world have become more economically successful over the last 10 years, meat consumption has risen by 20%.
It's a change in eating habits that has taken its toll on the environment. Producing just one pound of beef has a larger negative environmental impact than burning one gallon of gas.
Now Mosa Meat, a Dutch food technology company, is aiming to change the game by selling laboratory-grown meat at an affordable price.
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From growing livestock feed to transporting cattle to refrigerating meat, the production of beef has a major environmental impact. And that’s before factoring in consumers’ environmental footprints, including driving to the store, refrigerating the beef, and cooking it.
Motivated to make real meat to feed the world’s growing population in a sustainable and animal-friendly way, Mosa Meat uses a natural process instead of raising cattle the traditional, resource-intensive way. The company’s beef production process relies on the stem cell’s natural process of repair.
Mosa Meat creates “clean” or “cultured” meat by extracting a small tissue sample from the muscles of livestock without killing them. In a laboratory, the company separates the fibers, tissues, and stem cells and then triggers the stem cells in the muscle tissue to begin to repair the fibers. The process mimics the way muscles tear, repair, and grow during workouts.
From just one sample, Mosa Meat can produce enough muscle tissue to make 320,000 pounds of meat.
Approximately 30% of the world’s land is used to raise livestock, either to produce food for that livestock or to house it. But if the grain used to feed these animals were redirected for human consumption instead, it could feed up to 800 million people. Innovative food products like Mosa Meat’s lab-grown beef could help free up that grain stock as well as reducing the amount of land used to raise livestock, like cattle, and the negative impact of livestock farming on the environment.
The company aims to bring the cost of its meat products down — from $330,000 for its prototype burgers at its 2013 launch in London — to $1 to make them more affordable. Mosa Meat received $8.8 million in funding to begin scaling production from the laboratory to industrial last Monday and aims to be delivering to restaurants by 2021, making its sustainable meat available to the public.
Chef Richard McGeown cooking the first cultured hamburger at the 2013 London press conference. Photo courtesy of Mosa Meat
But innovative solutions face challenges from the long-standing industries they could disrupt. In the case of laboratory-grown meat like Mosa Meat’s burger patty, new companies face pushback from the US beef industry.
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While producers like Mosa Meats prefer terms like “clean” or “cultured” meat to refer to their product, the US Cattleman’s Association (USCA), which represents American cattle growers, filed a petition to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in February to prohibit the use of the word “meat” from the emerging industry of lab-grown and plant-based meat.
In fact, the terminology used to refer to lab-grown meat is now the first item on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) list of regulations for the emerging industry.
The fight over what to call this kind of meat has uncovered a growing regulatory conflict between the FDA — whose responsibilities range from protecting and promoting public health to regulating food and medicine — and the USDA, which is responsible for federal laws relating to farming, forestry, and food.
Critics of the USDA believe that its support of the US agriculture industry make it biased against the man-made meat sector in favor of traditional meat producers. Regulatory obstacles like these could cause delays in “clean” and “cultured” meat becoming widely available for public consumption.