Uma Valeti, founder, and CEO of Upside Foods wants people to take the Pepsi challenge when it comes to their new steaks.
Speaking with CNN via email, she explained “cultivated meat is real meat grown directly from animal cells. These products are not vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based — they are real meat, made without the animal. The process of making cultivated meat is similar to brewing beer, but instead of growing yeast or microbes, we grow animal cells. From there, we put these cells in a clean and controlled environment and feed them with essential nutrients they need to replicate naturally. In essence, we can re-create the conditions that naturally exist inside an animal’s body.”
This idea isn’t brand new. In fact, if you or a loved one have benefitted from regenerated tissue or medical repairs, then odds are you already have some experience with the tech. In this instance, they take some of the cow’s tissue via biopsy, then they’ll isolate cells of the meat or eggs, or even take cells from cell banks. Next, they identify the food these cells need to continue production. Then, it all goes into a bioreactor and has the cells agitated under particular pressure so the cells grow safely and efficiently.
In the end, a substance that is technically raw meat is removed. Josh Tetrick, CEO of Eat Just, Inc., a California-based company that makes plant-based alternatives to eggs, is another very vocal company about this future. As he explained with chicken it takes two weeks to grow into the desired size which is roughly “about half the amount that a chicken would take.”
Chef and philanthropist Kimbal Musk, co-founder and executive chairman of The Kitchen Restaurant Group sees this as something that we should be toying with. “What’s cool about it is you can start to tweak the texture. Alternative meats can be too spongy, or they can be too firm, and, frankly, even bad chicken can be, too. With this technological approach to things, you have the ability to adjust that and really tweak it for a palette that matters to you.”
At a June 2nd press conference, he vouched for the changes the industry has undergone. “The first time I cooked this was probably two years ago and I tried it again this morning. It is remarkably better, which means it’s technology that you’re constantly improving.”
The way Tetrick sees things, this should become a global thing. “Whether it’s animal welfare, climate, biodiversity or food safety, (there are) a lot of really important reasons to change how we eat meat.” He also explained that “The holy grail, if we all do our job right, is that you only need one animal in the initial biopsy. You can do what we call ‘immortalize’ those cells so they essentially propagate forever.”
In this scenario, they could in theory solve world hunger. However, there is the question of how long they can “copy” this tissue sample before the chemical and genetic sequences mutate or die off. Is a sample really as good the 2,000th time around as it was the 2nd? While it is clear that it requires significant water to aid in the production, there are still many questions to answer about the situation.
Building tissue to save a life, and fix or regenerate an organ is one thing. That’s providing an answer to a problem in life. It allows us a chance to “catch up” evolution-wise with other creatures. However, making that meat to nourish our bodies is a bit of a stretch. One that ethically becomes a question for many people to wonder about. We also have to ask, is this like diamonds and there will be different values for lab-created versus organically grown?
One thing is for certain, it could help bring back many of the “vegans” who claimed that they hated meat for being murderous. Then, we would really know if they preferred grass clippings over a hearty steak or not.