It’s meat Jim, but not as we know it: lab-grown beef on the way

22 Mar 2016

It was only a matter of time until the food chain was handed the ultimate disruption tool, with a US company claiming it’s now lab-growing meat for human consumption.

No more beef cattle rearing, feeding, keeping healthy and slowly, arduously ploughing them through the food chain. Just a lab, a petri dish and a button called ‘Beef, medium-rare’.

Memphis Meats is a Californian start-up with a three-year goal of getting its lab-grown meat to your restaurant table, and five-year goal of hitting your local store. How does it work? Well, the meat develops from stem cells harvested from cows, pigs and chickens.

It grows on petri dishes in small quantities over the course of about three weeks, and the company has high hopes for what it calls “sustainable as well as cruelty free” meat.

Free from the likes of contamination that sees bacteria flourish, managed to contain lower saturated fat levels and requiring far less space and time than the regular food chain production line, should the company actually succeed in what it’s doing then dietary revolution is afoot.

Taking regenerative stem cells from animals, they are put on a petri dish with oxygen, sugar and other minerals fed into them, with Uma Valeti saying his company is “motivated” by the idea of customers popping into a store and buying straight off a shelf, with none of the legacy costs (both financial and environmental) of beef, chicken or pork.

“Our goal is to be in restaurants in three years and retail in five years. In 2021, we want to be in retail or even earlier,” he said.

Valeti, who is associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota and president of the Twin Cities American Heart Association, claims the meat is “identical at the molecular and cellular level” to traditionally harvested meat.

“Cultured meat will completely replace the status quo and make raising animals to eat them simply unthinkable,” he said.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic