JAN 04, 2018 01:51 PM PST

Lab-Grown Meat Picks up Steam and Funding

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

While a vegan or vegetarian has already decided not to eat meat, potentially for a variety of reasons, the moral complications and environmental impact of living as an omnivore remain a controversial issue for many. The consumption of animal byproducts is a hotly debated topic because of its effects on the environment and human health as well as concerns regarding the treatment of creatures bred for consumption. The growing industry of cell-cultured or clean meats -- meats grown in labs -- aims to solve many of these dilemmas and may also present new questions for those who have previously chosen to abstain from meat. The Israeli biotech company SuperMeat plans to bring its chicken products to market within a few years.

SuperMeat Co-founder and CEO Ido Savir, credit: SuperMeat on Facebook

What is Clean Meat?

SuperMeat grows meat, which is basically muscle tissue, by taking an animal biopsy “without hurting the animal itself.” The cells are then incubated in nutrients, which encourage them to live and divide. The resulting meat product is not genetically modified.

“Growing meat in the lab is possible because of breakthroughs in stem cell research and tissue engineering — two fields that have attracted scientific interest because of their immense potential in medicine,” Journalist Bahar Gholipour points out.

What Are the Advantages of Growing Meat in a Lab?

With the world population growing (estimated to reach 9.1 billion people by 2050) and Earth’s resources already strained, finding a new way to feed people seems like a good idea. The United Nations (U.N.) estimates that world food production will need to increase by 70 percent by the year 2050 in order to feed everyone.

In the U.S., meat consumption is on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),SuperMeat's Clean Chicken, credit: SuperMeat the average American will eat 222.2 pounds of meat in 2018, setting a new record. The U.N. further reports that agriculture, and primarily dairy and meat, uses of 70 percent of the Earth’s freshwater and 38 percent of the land, while creating 19 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions.

With clean meat, companies like SuperMeat are hoping to aid our species in producing more food while leaving a much smaller environmental impact. SuperMeat reports that its meats taste and feel like the meat we are used to and are very ecofriendly; “requiring 99 percent less land, up to 96 percent less greenhouse gas emissions and up to 90 percent less water usage.” They also avoid the breeding and slaughter of animals and the risk of animal rights abuses that have been revealed to exist in many “factory farms,” where 99 percent of U.S. farm animals still live and die.

SuperMeat has conveyed that its line of meats will be much cheaper to produce and so will sell for less than standard meats but also stated recently that the price will be similar to that of conventional meats.

What’s Next for SuperMeat?

In January 2018, SuperMeat announced it had raised $3 million to fund its endeavor to produce lab-grown chicken meat for consumption. This follows up on a successful Indiegogo campaign in 2016 that raised over $200,000. Major recent investors include venture capital firms New Crop Capital and Stray Dog Capital of the U.S. and a large German poultry company called PHW.

“SuperMeat is consistent with our pursuit to provide Europe with sustainable, clean foods — we do not see this transaction as a financial investment, but rather as the beginning of a long-term strategic partnership,” noted PHW-Gruppe CEO Peter Wesjohann. SuperMeat Co-founder and CEO Ido Savir concurs; “This partnership will enable us to bring to market a revolutionary new generation of tasty, sustainable meat products throughout Europe and beyond.” SuperMeat plans to bring its Clean Chicken to market within about three years.

Other notable players in the contemporary clean meat industry include Memphis Meats and Beyond Meat, which have also raised millions in backing.

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech and conservation.
You May Also Like
AUG 07, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 07, 2018
Why Does the James Webb Space Telescope Keep Getting Delayed?
The James Webb Space Telescope is set to become NASA’s latest and greatest space-based observatory, superseding the Hubble Space Telescope as the big...
AUG 20, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 20, 2018
Martian Dust Storm Begins Clearing, Sparking Hope for the Opportunity Rover
Back in June, Mars became enveloped by a planet-wide dust storm. The dust from the storm blocked so much sunlight that NASA felt compelled to put its solar...
SEP 06, 2018
Neuroscience
SEP 06, 2018
Can This Brain Implant Reverse Paralysis?
When someone suffers an injury or illness that results in paralysis, the loss is devastating. Whether partial or full, when part of the body doesn’t ...
SEP 09, 2018
Technology
SEP 09, 2018
Synthetic DNA Technology for Therapeutic Molecule Delivery
Synthetic DNA technology was used to engineer a novel eCD4-Ig anti-HIV agent while enhancing its potency ‘in vivo’ which was done by researcher...
SEP 19, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 19, 2018
RemoveDebris Spacecraft Successfully Nets a Piece of Space Junk
Experts approximate that there’s around 7.5 metric tons’ worth of space junk swirling around our planet. Most of this junk is comprised of dead...
SEP 25, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
SEP 25, 2018
Creating Circuits to Detect and React to Conditions in Live Cells
Researchers at Caltech have taken an interesting approach to synthetic biology....
Loading Comments...