The Taste of Tomorrow

“What a great week for cultured meat.”’

That’s according to New Harvest, the organization that’s been pushing cultured meat— aka in vitro meat, lab grown meat, or test tube meat  — for the past decade. New Harvest hosted a symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver and reporters came en masse – stories about lab  meat appeared in The Economist, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Guardian, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Live Science, etc etc.

In part, the media interest was greater than ever before because there was, at last, an answer to the “Where is the beef?” question.

Mark Post, a Dutch scientist, prominently featured in The Taste of Tomorrow, promised a burger, ready for consumption WITHIN SIX MONTHS.

As previously noted on this unabashedly pro-in vitro meat web site, Post has an anonymous, angel investor who is devoting $330,000-plus to support the project.  Post also has a high profile ally . Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck fame will prepare the petri-dish raised burger.  (The alliance with a culinary master is a very good thing, as the lab-burger will likely have a consistency  more akin to tofu than T-bone)

Now, all the media coverage about the burger-to-come is only a small part of the general giddiness at New Harvest.  Momentum is building.  Check out the activity on the New Harvest web site.  For years, New Harvest was a largely one man shop (Jason Matheny, see profile), now they’re hiring a director.

Also, fyi, must-see video.  A  TEDMED talk entitled “In Vitro Meat – It’s What’s For Dinner!” Gabor Foracs, a Hungarian biophysicist at the University of Missouri and Organovo, cooks up and eats meat engineered using a 3D bioprinting process.

And even though last week’s media coverage focused on culture meat, the Vancouver symposium also spotlighted some other alt-meat ideas.

Building Better Alt-Meats 

For instance, Patrick Brown,  a biochemist at the Stanford’s School of Medicine, talked about his efforts to put together meat substitutes from plant materials. According to a report on the AAAS meeting, Brown is starting with meat but could advance to plant-based dairy, imbuing the food with a taste that he said will win over “the hardcore meat- and cheese-lovers who can’t imagine giving all this up.”

Brown uses plant materials because he believes plants will be a cheaper and more environmentally more beneficial pathway to a better meat. He said yields from the world’s four major food plant crops—corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans—already provide more than enough protein and amino acids for the world population. But only 4% of the world’s land surface is devoted to growing these crops, Brown said, compared to 30% for grazing and raising the crops for livestock feed.

“Animal farming is by far the biggest ongoing environmental catastrophe,” Brown told the AAAS.

According to Nicholas Genovese, the University of Missouri geneticist, even traditional meat producers are interested in meat analogue technologies. Genovese said large producers Tyson Foods and JBS have inquired about the possibilities of new meat substitutes.

For a look at how plant-based meat facsimiles are produced, check out this fascinating video from Time “Turning Powder into Poultry.”


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