For the past few years, it has appeared more and more obvious that a vegetarian diet would be better for the planet and for humankind for a multitude of reasons. But for many of us, the thought of giving up a juicy steak or delicious meatballs takes vegetarianism off the table, or at least, requires some serious compromise. The question so far has always remained: “how do we avoid slaughtering innocent animals and taxing the planet, while still experiencing the culinary delights that meat provides?”
Many substitutes have entered the market, but none of them have emerged as the magic bullet. That’s all about to change now that scientists have developed a way to “grow” the real deal. While it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, it’s very much the new reality.
Memphis Meats is a start-up based in San Francisco, dedicated to create lab-grown meat using animal cells, without actually harming the animal. Late last month, they produced the world’s first lab-grown meatball.
“Our concept is simple. Instead of farming animals to obtain their meat, why not farm the meat directly?”- Uma Valeti, Chief Executive of Memphis Meats.
The process begins by isolating cow and pig cells that have the ability to regenerate, then providing the cells with oxygen and nutrients such as sugars and minerals. These cells develop inside bioreactor tanks into skeletal muscle that can be harvested in between 9 and 21 days.
Not only does this process avoid harming animals, it also reduces some of the other negative side effects of the meat industry, including pollution. Memphis Meats’ process produces 90 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional agriculture, consumes less nutrients and doesn’t require antibiotics or other additives used in traditional meat production. And according to those who have tried it, it tastes exactly like real meat.
One issue they do face is the affordability of their product, with one pound of their cultured meat said to cost a whopping $18,000 to produce. Memphis Meats scientists are also working on a completely plant-based alternative to the fetal bovine serum (extracted from the blood of slaughtered, pregnant cows) currently needed for the culturing process. Questions have also been raised to as to the safety of such a creation: could it carry the same dangers as genetically-engineered foods that have become apparent in recent years?
This is only the beginning for the start-up and for lab-grown meat in general. The brains behind the newly developed meatball are working hard to solve these issues.
“We plan to do to the meat industry what the car did to the horse and buggy… Cultured meat will completely replace the status quo and make raising animals to eat them simply unthinkable.”
Quite a promise.
Find out more on Memphis Meats at www.memphismeats.com