Lab-grown Meat: How it’s Made, Sustainability and Nutrition

Lab-grown meat, which can also be referred to as cultivated or cultured meat, is real meat that’s grown directly from animal cells. According to Eric Schuzle, the vice-president of product and regulation at UPSIDE Foods, these products are “real meat, made without the need to raise and slaughter animals.”

Cultivated meat may sound like a thing of the future, but it’s closer to reaching supermarket shelves than you might think. In fact, the first piece of lab-grown meat hit the world stage in 2013 when a team at the University of Maastricht presented the first hamburger produced by bovine stem cells. At the time, this original burger cost more than $300,000 to create. But researchers found that two years later, they were able to reduce the cost to $11.36. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the world population will surpass 9.1 billion by 2050, at which point agricultural systems will not be able to supply enough food to feed everyone. But could lab-grown meat help fill this void? Here’s what we know so far. According to researchers in the Journal of Integrative Agriculture, lab-grown meat is made by using the more-than-100-year-old technique of in vitro muscle tissue growth.

The process of making cultivated meat is similar to brewing beer, in that this is an industrial cell culture process based upon well-hewn fermentation technology,” says Schuzle. “However, instead of growing yeast or bacteria, we grow animal cells. We start by taking a small amount of cells from high-quality livestock animals, like a cow or chicken, and then figure out which of those cells have the ability to multiply and form delicious meat food products. “From there, we put the cells in a clean-and-controlled environment and provide them with the essential nutrients they need to naturally replicate and mature. In essence, we can recreate the conditions that naturally exist inside an animal’s body so that the cells can continue growing. Once the meat is ready, we harvest it, process it like conventional meat products, and then package, cook or otherwise prepare it for consumption.”

Schuzle adds: “We’re excited about this as a new way to produce meat because our cells can continue growing many times over as compared to those in the animal. In effect, we can grow many animals from the cells of just one animal for many years to come.”