Test-tube meat - the sustainable food of the future

Marketers and statisticians predict the growth of the market for artificial meat from a laboratory test tube in the coming years, which is gaining prominence on the wave of interest in responsible consumption. Startups around the world are creating a new industry with the promise of saving the environment without compromising taste, composition or quality. Ecosphere is investigating whether there is any sense in all this.

What is artificial meat and how it is made

Let's understand the terminology. In theory, vegetarian meat can also be considered artificial meat - something that is made from products containing vegetable protein, such as peas, soybeans, chickpeas.

It is correct to call only one type of artificial meat - meat that was grown in the laboratory from cell culture. It also includes GMO meat and meat from cloned animals - it is also produced in the laboratory. All this is also called in vitro meat, or from a test tube.

The technology of growing meat in a test tube is almost 30 years old. NASA was the first to experiment in this area - the agency was looking for the optimal food for astronauts. Development began in 1995, and in 2001 the first test-tube meat was officially presented.

The process of creating meat in the laboratory seems to have left the pages of a sci-fi novel. It is grown from a culture of stem cells that are taken through a biopsy from a live or slaughtered animal. The cells are placed in a three-dimensional framework of proteins, where they are "bathed" in a nutrient mixture of glucose, amino acids and minerals. Stem cells multiply and differentiate, turning into muscle fibers. The process is a bit like growing yoghurt crops. Primary cells for test tube meat are harvested once - re-to you do not need to refer to the original source. Thus, test tube meat is real meat, original, not imitation.

Of course, this is a simplified diagram. There are many more nuances and subtleties - it is necessary to make the cells grow "in place", add other types of cells to them for the normal development of muscle fibers, "exercise and stretch" the grown muscles. And the artificial meat obtained now differs from the natural one in consistency, taste, appearance, shelf life. The first experiments did not give a molded steak or a piece of fillet, but a soft, stuffing-like substance.

It is not yet clear whether test-tube meat can match the taste of real meat, but it is already assigned the role of a savior in the face of an impending food crisis.

Climate change, food crisis and test tube meat

By 2050, the world's population will grow from the current 7.7 to 9.7 billion, and by the end of the century it will reach 11 billion. The task of feeding a growing population will be exacerbated. Cows and other farm animals drink water, eat grain, take up space - i.e. spend resources that can be consumed by a person directly, and not through a cutlet or steak. As the population grows, the waste of resources will only grow. According to some estimates, 70% of agricultural land is already used for livestock production, and 18% of greenhouse gas emissions occur in this area. Increased meat production will contribute to both the food crisis and the climate crisis.

It is logical that a decrease in livestock production and meat consumption will reduce the ecological cost of meat. But not every person, out of ecological solidarity, will switch to pea cutlets. People are guided by both taste preferences and the desire to provide the body with the necessary macro and micronutrients - this is natural. And here meat from a test tube comes to the rescue.