Meat printing from stem cells could be the future of food, but consumers will have to convince
Scientists are growing protein from the stem cells of cattle and poultry in labs in an attempt to create more sustainable meat, but will anyone want to eat it?
- Scientists say lab-grown foods could be key to sustainability as the world’s population grows
- But consumers are concerned about the taste of 3D printed meat and the ethics of its production.
- Experts point out that meat produced from stem cells is not the same as GMO products
Using stem cells from cows or DNA from chicken eggs, lab technicians develop products that they believe will taste, feel and look like a product straight from a animal.
Johannes le Coutre, professor of food and health at the University of New South Wales, said cultivated meat would likely be on supermarket shelves by 2030 and that as the human population increased the environmental impact of livestock would become unsustainable.
“You can grow material in edible tissue without harvesting plants or killing an animal – that’s what makes it attractive,” said Dr le Coutre.
“If you plan to produce a kilo of beef, it will cost you 15,000 liters of water.
“If you can do this in a closed system, the concept is that recycling water systems [would be used]. “
According to a Australian Beef Sustainability Framework Report, the majority of water used in beef production is consumed by livestock as drinking water.
He revealed that 486 liters of water had been used per kilogram of meat before the animal was slaughtered.
Although cultured meat is not yet a reality in Australia, Singapore’s food agency approved the sale of lab-grown chicken nuggets last year.
Dr le Coutre said cultured meat companies would face many challenges before Australian food regulators give the green light to lab meat.
“Is [approval] something that should be done on an ongoing basis, or is it something that can be done once and each batch of material will be considered safe?
How it works
Israel-based MeaTech became the first cultured meat company to be listed on the U.S. stock exchange, after raising $ 28 million in seed funding.
Business Development Director Simon Fried said no-slaughter meat has both environmental and ethical benefits.
“We choose to take the [stem] samples of cells from umbilical cords – we think this is the least awkward place from a cow’s point of view, ”he said.
Mr Fried said the company also produces poultry products using DNA.
“We make chicken cells and these stem cells can be taken from the egg itself,” he said.
“The real magic, though, is that once you have that cell, you have to grow it and it has to multiply … and the stem cells divide about once a day.”
Mr Fried said the development of technologies such as bioprinting would allow stem cells to be turned into a piece of meat.
“We believe this exponential form of cell farming means that from small samples a large amount of food can be made,” he said.
From muscle and fat cells, bio-ink is made.
Using a 3D printer, thin layers are stacked together to form the last piece of meat.
After the printing is complete, the fabric is placed in a medium to grow and mature.
Australians will need to be convinced
Research shows Australian consumers will need to be convinced before straying from traditional diets.
“Whether in the livestock sector or in broader agricultural products, there is awareness and pride in our food here in Australia. [cultivated meat] will have to live up to these standards, ”said Dr le Coutre.
“Consumers must be convinced, even if you cross all the legal hurdles consumers need to see the benefits.
Dr le Coutre said consumer concerns about the ethics of cell farming were unfounded because stem cells were found in all foods and fibers.
But he said he understood the reluctance towards genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“If you eat a piece of chicken or fish, you are already eating thousands of stem cells,” he says.