Narrator: This machine prints steaks in 3D. Thanks to it, you can create a piece of meat without killing the cow. This Israeli startup is one of dozens of companies racing to perfect the process.
Simon Fried, Business Development Manager, MeaTech: Killing cows is not necessarily the most efficient way to make beef.
Narrator: It’s no secret that beef is one of the most harmful foods for our planet. The search for a solution turned into a huge business. Can Lab Grown Steak or Plant Based Alternatives Repair a Broken Beef Industry?
In 2020, nearly 75 million tonnes of meat were produced. That’s just over 8.5 kg for every living person. Every stage of the supply chain causes harm.
Let’s start with the farm. Cattle farming requires a large area. Salvadoran-sized tropical forests are cut down each year to make way for cattle. These cows emit tons of methane – one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. In addition, there are emissions related to the slaughtering, processing, packaging and transportation of beef.
Globally, beef was responsible for 3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. This is about twice as much as then all vehicles in the United States emitted at that time. The plant-based meat alternatives industry is now worth $ 5.6 billion.
Beyond Meat products went to about 135 thousand. grocery stores and restaurants. The company’s most famous burger is made thanks to the use of heating, cooling and pressure. Thanks to this, vegetable proteins have a texture similar to meat.
A company-funded study found that its product generates around 90 percent of the less greenhouse gas emissions than regular beef. For many scientists, however, it is important to create not an imitation, but real meat.
In 2013, professor and scientist Mark Post showed the first burger grown in a laboratory. This took place during a live tasting in London. The production of this piece of meat cost more than 325 thousand. hole.
Hanni Rützler, nutrition expert: It tastes almost like meat, not so juicy, but the texture is perfect.
Celia Homyak, Co-Director of Alternative Meats Lab, University of California: It was one of the turning points. Then I thought, “It might be something.”
Narrator: However, it was not until 2020 that funds began to pour in for the development of food grown in the laboratory. Bill Gates and traditional companies from the meat industry have invested in some startups.
Celia: Everyone wanted to start doing this.
Narrator: Currently, scientists from Israel are taking on one of the greatest challenges of growing steak in the laboratory.
Simon: In the case of steaks, we combine technologies such as tissue engineering and cell growth.
Narrator: Simon Fried and his team use stem cells to create a steak they believe is made more ethically, but not vegetarian. Here’s how it works.
Take a look at this perfect marbled steak. The white fragments are the fat that gives it flavor. The pink fragments are the muscles that contain protein.
Scientists had to figure out how to recreate these fragments. First, they took stem cells from a cow and grew them in a laboratory.
Simon: We replace the animal’s body with something called a bioreactor.
Narrator: Getting cells to grow under such conditions is not an easy task.
Nelly Komarovsky, team leader at MeaTech: Usually the cells are attached to something. They grow in a petri dish or flask and want to stick to something.
Narrator: Cells grow suspended in a fluid in which they divide about once a day. The scientists then take the cells to a tissue engineering laboratory where they create what is called a bio-ink.
Simon: We begin the hip-printing stage. The inks we use contain cells that we have previously grown in laboratories.
Narrator: One ink is used for muscles and another for fat. These are served through nozzles and technicians can adjust the amount of each to a particular steak.
Simon: We can print any structure we design. We send the file to the printer and we are able to produce a steak of any size and proportion.
Narrator: One of the key challenges in this process is keeping the printing room sterile.
Simon: These are living cells that are passed through the printer. It is important that the air is free of any contamination.
Narrator: Otherwise, the cells may die. The steaks are not yet completely ready after exiting the printer. Cells take time to develop into muscle and fat tissue.
Nadav Noor, head of the tissue engineering team at MeaTech: We wait from a few days to several weeks. We then see the muscle fibers contract spontaneously in the vessel.
Narrator: It looks like. This process takes about a month.
Simon: After this time, we have a ready piece of meat.
Narrator: For several reasons, MeaTech does not yet sell its steaks to consumers. Remember how cells grew in this fluid? It contains Fetal Calf Serum (FBS).
Celia: Simply put, it’s calf blood.
Narrator: This is one of the biggest controversies around laboratory breeding meat because it comes from the fetuses of pregnant cows that have been slaughtered. However, it is essential for cell growth.
Simon told us that they use FBS in the research process, but plan to replace it with something else.
Simon: Our plans assume that it should not be used in production on an industrial scale.
Narrator: An alternative that is equally effective has not yet been found. Simon did not give us an estimate of the date when the steak would be ready to be tried by the public, nor how much it would cost to make prototypes.
Meanwhile, the company is focusing on more achievable goals, such as this hybrid product made from soybeans and beef fat grown in the MeaTech lab.
Moran Lidor, MeaTech culinary advisor: The texture of our kebab is almost the same as the real kebab.
Narrator: MeaTech is building a new plant in Belgium to start producing this type of food on a larger scale. However, it is unclear how sustainable the lab-grown beef industry can be.
Celia: We do not know how big the carbon footprint will be when production is done on a large scale. We don’t know how much space and energy it will consume.
Narrator: The risks involved in producing such meat are unknown as most consumers have yet to try it.
For now, meat made in the lab can only be sold in Singapore, where one company launched its chicken nuggets in 2020.
Despite this uncertainty, lab-grown meat companies raised nearly $ 2 billion. They are betting that the rest of the world will follow Singapore’s footsteps and allow the sale of food grown in laboratories.
There is a chance that meat grown in the laboratory will convince regulators and the public. But can it really replace beef?
Celia: I am not fully convinced that this is the right way to mass-produce meat. I base this opinion on how long this technology has been developing and how little we have seen so far.
Narrator: While waiting for beef grown in the laboratory, consumers looking to reduce their carbon footprint may turn to plant-based alternatives.