For the environmentally conscious meat lovers out there, a new method  of producing meat is being developed that has a lesser impact on our planet. And animal fanatics can cheer, for there is no animal cruelty involved. Using existing tissue engineering techniques, scientists have successfully created a hamburger, with meat grown in a laboratory. The price? A whopping $300.000.

Current meat production issues

A lot of space is needed for livestock

The problems with the meat industry nowadays, could be significantly reduced. Less land is needed, greenhouse gasses emissions are lower, energy usage decreased, are ecological advantages of meat cultivated in a lab. Antibiotics use in livestock, animal diseases (like bird flu, swine flu, tuberculosis), and long term processed meat consumption which can cause heart diseases, gastrointestinal tract cancer and type 2 diabetes, are all alarming factors troubling the meat sector. Cultured meat can on the other hand, with strict control, prevent any contaminated products reaching the public.

Fish meat made in a lab can solve the overfishing problem of certain kind of fish, like the blue fin tuna.

How to make?

The future? Large scale bioreactors for cultured meat?

Cells are collected from a live animal and are treated with a growth medium. This medium consists of a protein to promote tissue growth and essential nutrients. For the energy needed to grow it is placed inside a bioreactor. For the meat to have some structure, support for the cells are needed. Ideally this support is edible and moves periodically to mimic real muscle activity. In theory, this process of meat production could go on indefinitely. Additional preservatives must be added to prevent yeast and fungi to grow.

Challenges

Can it be called meat?

Lab-meat, lab-grown meat, artificial meat, in vitro meat, clean meat, cultured meat, cultured tissue, are some names of how to call these “foods produced using animal-cell culture technology.” Due to this novelty, new regulations regarding this food needs to be formed by the divers government agencies around the world.

Religious authorities need to establish whether it is allowed to eat according to their holy laws.

Some people may feel discouraged eating fabricated meat, it is unnatural. And if taste, smell, texture and appearance is different from the traditional meat, will people still buy it?

The price tag of lab meat has dropped greatly since its introduction, but is still a few times higher than the meat slaughtered from animals. To further reduce the price, upscaling the production seems to be the answer.

When is it on the market?

Only estimates can be given, since development is still ongoing. Some companies aim to a date in the end of 2019. Other companies set their launching dates a bit later. Probably fish meat produced in a lab will hit the market first, since fish meat is simpler in composition than chicken or beef.

Medium rare, please.

I don't expect to find a juicy piece of lab-meat steak pretty soon, but I might consider taking a bite into a lab-burger. Looking further into the future: order you customized fabricated piece of meat with the exact nutrients and supplements you want. Or even seasoned to your tastebuds?