“A World Without Slaughter”: The Cultured Meat

By Akudo McGee 6 Min Read

In a previous article, I discussed the massive impact of raising animals for slaughter. The impact of meat on out Earth, wallets and consciouses has created a recent boom in vegan and vegetarian diets with many companies rushing to accommodate this growing demographic.

Replacing meat has presented a number of obstacles, namely assuring that the nutritional content of traditional meat is supplemented in mock meats and reproducing the texture and flavor of meat.

While some companies have turned to soy as a meat replacement, some turn to wheat gluten (seitan) and others have found a way to use traditionally protein rich legumes and vegetables like lentils, spinach and kale in their mock meat products. Memphis Meats, a San Francisco based startup is one of many actors in the meat replacement game but their approach is amazingly novel and excitingly different.

They offer meat that taste like the steak you had last week, tastes like the chicken tenders you enjoy and taste like the duck you had last Christmas because, well it’s the real deal. So how do they do it and why do billionaires like Bill Gates and Richard Branson back Memphis Meats? Well, the answer is quite scientific.

We expect our products to be better for the environment (requiring up to 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, land and water than conventionally-produced meat), the animals and public health. And most importantly, they’re delicious.

Memphis Meats is able to cultivate a small sample of animal cells (which self-replicate in special tank) in order to grow beef, chicken and duck in labs. The end product, which is said to taste exactly like traditionally farmed meat, is grown free of E. coli, antibiotics and bacteria like salmonella. The meat is entirely real, however, it requires just one tenth of the water and one hundredth of the land that is required by traditional livestock farming.

Memphis Meats talks about the need to find a better way to feed the planet. According to their site, globally we spend $1 trillion per year on meat and the demand for meat is expected to double in the next coming decades. They also discuss the impact that meat has on animal welfare and human health.

The co-founder, Dr. Uma Valeti is a cardiologist and entrepreneur whose interests were rooted in an affordable, delicious and sustainable alternative to traditionally farmed meat. He has served as a leader at the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology and has had a hand in several other food tech startups.

The other co-founder, Nicholas Genovese (PhD) is a stem cell biologist, meat-lover and vegetarian (not at all a contradiction here) who completed his graduate thesis in cancer biology and began studying the process of cultivating animal stem cells. The one time poultry farmer says that he wanted to create a better way to produce foods for the health and happiness of people and animals.

Memphis Meats was the first company ever to grow poultry in a lab, having the potential to impact the consumption of a food that Americans spend about $90 billion per year on (this figure only includes the amount of money spent on chicken).

What if we could make the same products that the world has always loved, but in a process that is better for the planet and its inhabitants? What if we could completely change the way meat gets to the plate?

Lab grown meat has been attempted for more than two decades with few advancements coming as close as Memphis Meats. They expect to have their products in stores by 2021, after significantly lowering the cost for consumers.

They’re revolutionizing a new field known as "clean meat" or "cultured meat". The concept of clean meat is similar to that of clean energy- in this case it isn’t an alternative to meat, but meat engineered rather than farmed and slaughtered. Meat is "brewed" from animal cells and other "clean" animal products into tissue, which can then be harvested.

The move from mock meat to clean meat came as many, like the CEO of Hampton Creek, a plant-based food startup, came to realize that a large part of meat consumption is cultural. This means that even when mock meats are similar to real meat in nutritional value, texture and taste, many are put off because they feel that their plate is missing something without the meat. This lead to the idea that moving beyond meat involved making the real thing available without the consequences of traditional animal agriculture.

Companies like Memphis Meats are looking to change how we view and consume meat and that’s good news for the planet, animals and human beings.


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