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Issue #12: The future of meat is happening in labs

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Some time ago, I stumbled upon an interesting report of an independent think tank RethinkX that focus
 

Planet:tech

June 30 · Issue #12 · View online
Dedicated to curating tech products and startups solving the world's most pressing problems, including climate change, pollution, and sustainability.

Some time ago, I stumbled upon an interesting report of an independent think tank RethinkX that focuses on the current shifts in the food system driven by rapid advances in computing and synthetic biology. These advances will bring us to the most consequential disruption in food and agricultural production – a protein disruptionAlready, innovative start-ups and private companies are working on creating and commercializing cleaner, safer, and more sustainable meat—real meat—without the animals.  
In this issue, I’d like to take a glimpse into a different future for meat that is happening in labs

The future of meat is sustainable and… cellular?
Image source: Mosa Meat
Image source: Mosa Meat
The concept of manufacturing meat might seem like a new and futuristic prospect, but it has a rather long history. The first experiment leading to the development of in-vitro meat was performed by Nobel Prize winning scientist Alexis Carrel in 1912. Carrel took tissue culture from an embryonic chicken heart and placed it in a stoppered Pyrex flask of his own design and maintained the living culture for over 20 years with regular supplies of nutrient. His experiment aimed to prove that living cells could survive indefinitely under the right conditions. While the results of his experiments were never successfully repeated, the logic behind the experiment is the same as the logic behind modern attempts to grow meat in the lab.
A decades later after the experiment, Winston Churchill foresaw the massive potential for in vitro meat. In his 1931 article “Fifty Years Hence” Churchill writes:
“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium”. 
Eighty two years later, the world’s first lab-grown burger has been cooked and eaten at a news conference in London.  At that time the cost of one burger was around $325,000 – funded in part by Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. 😳
Good news is that just in two years, the cost of one burger has fallen from that $325,000 price tag to around $11 per piece in 2015. Potentially, the cost of meat could be reduced to an all-time low as the technology evolves.
One day — maybe not that long from now — we might be able to go to the store and buy meat that will be just like real beef — right down to the cellular level. 🤔
But is it a real meat?
Lab-grown meat. Cell-based meat. Cultured meat. Clean meat. It’s all the same thing: meat grown from produced by in vitro cultivation of animal cells, without the need to slaughter any animal.
The process is fairly simple  and typically requires a few steps:
  • First, scientists take a biopsy from animal muscle tissue, which contains myosatellite cells. These cells are the precursors to skeletal muscle cells—the kind comprising the meat we typically eat.
  • The next step is to place them in a nutrient-rich medium that will feed the cells and allow them to divide and grow. Scientists then exercise the cells with electric currents so they become actual muscles and continue to gain mass.
  • Lastly, the meat is harvested.
So to be clear here – clean meat isn’t an alternative to meat; it’s real, actual meat grown (or more accurately, brewed) from animal cells, as well as other clean animal products .
As Paul Shapiro notes in his book “Clean Meat—How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World”,  the potential amount of meat that scientists could produce using this process is astronomical. For instance, a single satellite cell from one single turkey could grow into enough muscle to manufacture over twenty trillion turkey nuggets. 😱
With an ever-growing global demand for meat and environmental concerns around sustaining current agricultural practices, cultured meat is a welcome and positive innovation that can revolutionize the food industry.  The new method is cleaner, healthier, cheaper, and beneficial to the planet’s environment. 🌍
Start-ups hoping to disrupt the meat industry
While scientists have been culturing meat in laboratories for a couple of decades, but lately, the field of companies has grown and they are aggressively developing commercially viable products. 
Companies like Future Meat Technologies, Memphis Meats, Mosa Meat, Finless Foods and SuperMeat are among the pioneers of creating meat in labs. The pioneers who are devoting their lives to creating and commercializing cleaner, safer, and more sustainable meatreal meat—without the animals.  
One of them is Memphis Meats, a Berkeley, Calif.-based startup founded by in 2015 by cardiologist Dr. Uma Valeti and stem cell biologist Nicholas Genovese with the vision of transforming the animal agriculture industry. In 2017 Memphis Meats raised a $17 million Series A from DFJ, Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Kimbal Musk, as well as two giant players in the animal protein and feed space, Cargill and Tyson Foods. 
In January 2020 the company closed a $161 million Series B funding round to build its first pilot production plant in the United States and bring cell-based meat to consumers’ mouths. 
Meat Culture
Today, there are at least 43 cultivated meat companies producing 15 types of meat. Although each company is focusing on specific subsets of animal agriculture, the ultimate goal is to create a new system that renders the existing model obsolete.  The end of animal farming, or even its substantial reduction, would bring huge benefits to the planet and our health.
Watch
The End of Animal Farming
A TEDxTalk on how social solutions informed by breakthroughs and historical successes will eventually allow for an ethical and efficient food system where slaughterhouses are obsolete.
The End of Animal Farming | Jacy Reese Anthis | TEDxUniversityofMississippi
Alternative proteins and the future of meat, say McKinsey experts 
What’s driving consumer demand? What’s next in alternative proteins?
Alternative proteins and the future of meat
Vox + Netflix: The Future of Meat Explained
The Future of Meat’ is the of season two of “Explained”, the documentary series on Netflix made in partnership with Vox that explains some of the world’s current trends, from politics, to science to pop culture.
Read
Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World”
I recently finished this famous book by Paul Shapiro that provides a good preview of the future of food and the innovators who are working to interrupt and reinvent the food system. The book provides an insightful look at the impact of the global animal product industry and how science and innovation is rapidly moving forward to eliminate threats to our environment and produce cheap, clean meat and other animal products.
Wrapping up
Technology will revolutionize the way the world works, and is happening as a natural response to growing issues of concern about the way we treat animals. Start-ups, private companies and investors are leading the way to forge a cleaner, brighter tomorrow. Technology, however, is just one of a wide range of solutions; how we adapt to them and the immediacy of our adoption is just as important and fundamental. 🙏🏻
Till the next issue,
Aleksandra 💚

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