Yeah, I’d be very interested if they found a way to grow meat without the need for animal-derived growth media. IIRC most bioprinting companies still use fetal bovine serum or something similar?
I’ll also be very curious to see what the vegetarian and vegan communities and big agriculture have to say about lab-grown meat over the next few decades. It’ll be a blast of purity vs pragmatism vs trolls vs those who don’t know what to believe.
IMHO, it’s still a step in the right direction. I am an Omnivore, but I also accept that my choices have impacts in terms of animal welfare and environmental impact. I try to mitigate this somewhat through purchasing brands focused on animal welfare wherever possible, but initiatives like the beyond/impossible products, and now this, will, hopefully, allow omnivores like me to reduce my meat intake while affecting a lesser number of animals, until we hopefully reach the day where no animal-derived components are required at all for these initiatives.
There’s a similar debate that I’m interested in with regard to the Impossible and Beyond products (both of which I like and eat). They are by necessity very very heavily processed food products. Vegans and health-conscious eaters tend to want to avoid processed foods (probably good advice, in general) but you can’t get much more processed and “scienced” than these fake meat products. How does one square those two things?
Fair enough. Until this year I never really took “avoid processed foods” all that seriously. In January I started trying to really change that in a bunch of ways I never had before, and then since the beginning of March I went from eating out or getting takeout 1-3 x/wk down to twice, total, and have noticed a lot of positive changes.
I hope over time the conversation evolves from processed/unprocessed to “What kind of processing?” and “Why processing?” We treat industrial and modern era processing as undesirable not in themselves (I hope) but because they (often? usually?) make food less nutritious, less healthy, less sustainable, more cruel, and so on. How much can we reduce or eliminate those problems in specific cases? How can we know and trust that we’ve done so? There’s just so much misinformation and BS to pick through to even try to start unraveling that, but ultimately I think that’s how you square those things: by switching to a more precise but harder to use metric that better tracks what you actually care about, instead of a simpler proxy/heuristic.
But that’s how they make chicken nuggets now, only without the printer. (And the pink goo comes from chickens raised in inhumane and unsanitary conditions, and then processed in inhumane and unsanitary conditions by low-wage workers.)
Maybe not a decade or two - all it would really take is one significant breakthrough. (Though that might take more than two decades for all I know.) But yeah, that breakthrough hasn’t yet been made, so this doesn’t pass any smell tests.
(And now that I think about it, this is sounding familiar - I’m vaguely recollecting other supposed breakthroughs in Russia that were supposed to create new futuristic products that were really some sort of marketing/investment scams.)
I think if someone made that breakthrough, we’d have heard about it long before it got turned into a feasible product, much less a fast food mass-production technique.
Indeed. I’ve been following this science a bit since it is very interesting. They have managed a little bit of meat-like tissue, but it was difficult and cost something like $100k. The basic science isn’t even finished on this idea yet, never mind scaling up, production processes, quality control, FDA approval, and countless other hurdles that probably add a decade each. This is the “self driving cars” of food. It’s way further away than everyone thinks and the reporting on it is all misleading as to the state of the science. However people want it to so badly that they insist it’s constantly imminent.
As a vegan, vegetarian, chef, farmer, consumer for 30 years I have allot of opinions on this, but the short of it is… You accept it and move on.Vegan “protein” has always been highly processed. Vegan cheese? Vegan “milk”. All highly processed. Eating 90% veggies and then occasional “I need to feel like a human” treat on occasion is fine. Even if it’s an Oreo.
I think the issue of “processed” or not is a bit of a red herring. Literally everything is processed in some way. It seems like we’re in the middle of a backlash to absolute garbage in our foods for decades and we’ve come to grossly over think our diets and attach too much emotional weight to our choices.
In the case of these meats? It’s probably about “neutral” if not a little better compared to real meat in terms of impact in health and will probably be vastly superior to real meat in terms of environmental impact. Personally I think it would be vastly better if we had cheap meat alternatives and when we wanted to enjoy the really deal it cost $50. It would help us put into perspective the real value of a life giving up life so we can eat.
This. These terms are way overloaded. “Processing” isn’t the problem, it’s substituting cheaper compounds to save a buck that don’t react in our digenstive systems the same as what they are replacing that’s the problem (or, indeed, modifying the source ingredients to cause the same issues - see HFCS).
Most Vegan “processing” is just industrial-scale production methodology. While this might entail adding some additives, it’s sure as hell not replacing sugars with HFCS and seasoning and flavourings with chemical analogues, etc.
Totally agree here. But of course, we can’t add a carbon tax to meat until we’ve solved the alternative protein costs to ensure we don’t unnecessarily raise the cost of food for the underprivileged. But this has the be where the endgame takes us, for sure. One step at a time.
“What they were looking at was a large bulblike object that seemed to be covered with stippled whitish-yellow skin. Out of it came twenty thick fleshy tubes, and at the end of each tube another bulb was growing.”
from Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Damn, that woman is becoming too prescient for her own (and our own) good.
100%. As far as “product purity” goes, I think consumers are generally educated enough that any company entering this space already knows their product can’t be loaded with, or sourced from garbage. The very first thing people will do is ask questions. It will have to be “reasonably healthy”.
That said, a burger has allot of fat. Any true replica of a burger will still have the same amount of fat so for allot of people that product makes no sense. I don’t know if there’s a market for it, but if beef ever reflected its true price, you can be sure a cheaper alternative would be required.
I think demand will continue to grow even if we don’t have the “perfect fake burger” if for no other reason than the demand already exists and resources are scarce. It could be a real win/ win if it’s cheaper and has a smaller footprint. We can do that without growing it in a lab, but I guess businesses in this space assume most people want something closer to real meat and not just “tasty good food”. I know we could change now, but they’re probably right in the long run.
I’m sure someone has estimated the cost of beef if the external costs were actually factor in. I’m curious now to have look at the numbers.
Anyway, there’s less “convincing of the public” as the years roll by. The science should be “fairly easy” as long as there’s money to be made to justify the research and since this is a product that could literally be eaten by a huge portion of the population, I would assume the economic incentive is viable.
And you’re exactly right, for this and similar “innovations” to really benefit us all, it’ll have to be done using mass production technology and we’ll have to find a way of doing it without introducing a bunch of garbage into the mix. The fact that it’s made in a production line doesn’t have to be the deal breaker.
A friend who grew up in Moscow in the 70’s used to joke about eating Russian chicken and horse sausages. “They were fifty:fifty horse and chicken. Into the grinder they’d put one horse, then one chicken. One horse; one chicken…”
Yeah, the need for fetal calf serum in the process is the big insurmountable obstacle right now - while there’s no (cheap) vegetable/fungal-based substitute, the whole thing is a complete non-starter. I mean, if you have to kill cows to make your faux-chicken or beef, it doesn’t make any sense, ecologically, ethically or financially.
Right now most of the massive cost comes from having to have a bunch of PhDs standing around manually monitoring the growth of a tiny chunk of meat. Most of that cost can largely be engineered out by figuring out methods of automating and scaling up production, but no one is even going to start working on that without a cheap vegetable-based growth medium. So once you have the growth medium, it seems like development could happen pretty quickly if someone threw some money at solving the production issues. (They’re not so different from those involved in producing drugs from genetically engineered microorganisms, for example.) Of course, then you’d need to work out the approval process, which could take even longer.
But all this is assuming you’re only trying to make chicken nuggets (or similar), i.e. a slurry of only muscle cells that would then be shaped and mixed with other ingredients. Trying to make actual steaks would be a whole other level of difficulty with a bunch more science problems still to solve before it would be possible even in the lab, much less at scale.
Not so prescient, really, as it was based on things that were already happening long before she wrote that book. “Tissue culture and art” was a thing happening in the mid '90s. I know some artists that grew goldfish tissue in a bioreactor and then ate it, as a performance (pre-dating the first official lab-grown burger by more than a decade).
Margaret Atwood’s prescience, in my estimation, is more on the marketing end than the technology. I wonder when we are going to see fluorescent artificial rabbit meat to wrap it all up in a historical art/technology example.