Clean Meat: Will We Brew Our Steaks in the Near Future Without Killing Animals?

Clean Meat: Will We Brew Our Steaks in the Near Future Without Killing Animals?

Kurt Schmidinger (University Vienna, Austria & Institute for Philosophy, Austria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7350-0.ch005

Abstract

This chapter presents the production of real animal meat, which is grown outside of an animal. Starting cells are grown to meat products with the aid of tissue engineering techniques, a process with many names: “Lab meat,” “in vitro meat,” “cultured meat,” or “clean meat.” The chapter gives an overview of the technology and—maybe even more interesting for many readers—shows who were and who are the major players behind clean meat, with many well-known persons among them. Finally, the chapter shows in which ways clean meat could outperform conventional animal-derived meat and so overcome the obstacles of little consumer acceptance, which can be expected initially.
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Introduction

The current mass production of livestock causes serious problems to the world – to the environment and climate, to global health and individual health, to world nutrition and last but not least, it causes suffering of billions of sentient beings that are ruthlessly reduced to meat production units. Environmentally, livestock production is a, or the, leading factor in land use, water consumption, water pollution, rainforest destruction, climate change, loss of biodiversity and soil erosion (Steinfeld, Gerber, Wassenaar, Castel, Rosales, & de Haan, 2006). Most of this can be easily explained by looking at the food chain of industrial livestock production systems. On average, approximately 7 calories that go into this system are converted into only 1 calorie of meat, dairy or eggs in these systems. Also, as the vast majority of livestock is nowadays exclusively fed with food we could as well use for direct human consumption, this is the largest loss of food calories in our food system after the harvest of the crops (see the impressive Figure 11.9 on page 836 in IPCC, 2014).

Such overwhelming loads of problems associated with the current production of animal products have motivated masterminds and financially potent patrons to search for revolutionary alternative nutritional concepts. Among these are many technologies aimed to simulate and replace meat, dairy and eggs with plant based products. Start-ups like the Chilean “Not Company” make use of artificial intelligence to design new plant based foods to replace animal products. There are also ideas and concepts to convert straw and harvest wastes, in other words to convert mainly inedible cellulose, into something edible for humans by using algae or other microorganisms in so called “biofermenters” (Schmidinger, 2012).

However, another approach is presented in this chapter – the production of real animal meat, which is grown outside of an animal. Starting cells form meat products with the aid of tissue engineering techniques, a process with many names: “lab meat”, “in vitro meat”, “cultured meat” or “clean meat” (see Figure 1). The term “clean meat” will be used in this chapter, which gives an overview of the technology and – maybe even more interesting for many readers – shows who are the major players behind clean meat.

Figure 1.

An image picture of lab grown meat (this is not really what it looks like) used by the Austrian web initiative futurefood.org

978-1-5225-7350-0.ch005.f01
Source: (http://www.futurefood.org/in-vitro-meat/index_en.php; design C. Braun & A. Schmidt, 2006)
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Clean Meat: Will We Brew Or Print Our Steaks In The Near Future?

This chapter gives an overview of the state of the art of technical approaches to produce clean meat out of cells from animal origin using tissue engineering technologies. It then shows who works in this futuristic field and who supports financially the research. Finally, a discussion of the obstacles gives a picture of how and under which circumstances clean meat might revolutionize the nutrition of the upcoming human generations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Finless Foods: US-based startup that works on clean fish meat.

Future Food: Austrian initiative that supports alternatives to animal products (also including clean meat).

Vegan: A human diet which excludes all animal-based products.

Modern Meadow: US-based startup that works on lab grown leather as well as on clean meat.

Good Food Institute: US-based organisation that supports alternatives to animal products (also including clean meat).

Perfect Day: US-based startup that works on the production of in vitro milk proteins.

Memphis Meats: US-based startup that works on clean meat.

Clean Meat: Meat grown from animal cells in vitro and not derived from slaughtered animals.

Supermeat: Project and startup in Israel that works on clean meat.

Clara Foods: US-based startup that works on the productions of in vitro egg proteins.

Mark Post: Scientist who was the first to produce and present a burger based on clean meat.

Vegetarian: A human diet which excludes all kinds of meat and fish.

Cultured Meat: Refer to clean meat.

Hampton Creek: US-based company that produces alternatives to egg products and also works on clean meat.

New Harvest: US-based organisation that supports the development of clean meat.

In Vitro Meat: Refer to clean meat.

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