There’s no meat anywhere that can compare to the meat that comes from Aleph Farms. That’s because the meat we buy in supermarkets and restaurants comes from animals, while theirs is made in a lab.
Small quantities of Aleph’s lab-grown “meat” have been created and tasted. It looks just like the real thing, and the results of the limited taste tests conducted so far range from enthusiastic nods of the head to broad smiles on the faces of diners.
Unlike real meat, which comes from animals that graze on farm land, Aleph’s cell-cultured “meat” is grown using stem cells from the muscle tissue of living livestock. According to the Daily Mail Online, “These cells, which have the ability to regenerate, are cultured in a nutrient ‘soup’ of sugars and minerals. They are then placed inside bioreactor tanks, left to develop into skeletal muscle, and harvested a few weeks later.”
This marks major progress in this technology, because until now it has been possible to culture only chicken nuggets.
Although Aleph’s process is well along in development, it still bears an “under construction” sign. Conventional meat can, for example, be cooked relatively quickly at home, and restaurants can prepare a steak in just a few minutes. By comparison, preparing cultured meat takes three weeks. And if you think the price you are paying for steak is high, consider this: a portion of the cultured stuff is very thin, the size of a credit card, and will set you back $50.
Other biotech firms are also trying to develop lab-grown meat, including one that’s backed by billionaire entrepreneur Bill Gates, and they too have made a great deal of progress. In fact, a few posh restaurants in Manhattan offer their wares. However, the still low volume of sales testifies about the product’s limited appeal.
Aleph, a small biotech located on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, claims that its “meat” has the same texture as conventional meat and that it tastes 60%-70% like the real thing. The company, however, wants to get this and other criteria exactly right, and achieving this goal will take more time. It might be another two years until it becomes commercially available.
Once it is finally perfected, it will be marketed to a potentially huge market and presumably at an affordable price. In fact, there’s already a great deal of interest and anticipation for lab-developed meat.
One of the potential markets is the growing number of vegetarians and vegans, who not only follow a meat-free diet themselves but probably wish everyone else would, too. Another is from animal rights groups and others who oppose slaughtering or harming animals in any way or for any reason – even to use them as food. Their philosophy is completely compatible with Aleph’s lab-grown process.
“In theory, you could be eating bison meat without killing bison. You could be eating whale without harming whales,” says Jan Dutkiewicz, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University. And this possibility has great appeal to many people in the US and many more overseas.
And there are additional potential sources of demand for Aleph’s products. People living in very low-income regions typically can’t afford to purchase real meat; however, lab-cultured meat offers the possibility of their being able to purchase meat-like food.
Also, with increasing prosperity around the world, demand for meat has been growing quickly in many countries. In China, for example, the traditional diet has featured lightly steamed or stir-fried vegetables like white rice; meat and fish are also part of their menu but are served in much smaller quantities than they are in the West. But all that is changing rapidly. These days China consumes 49% of all the pork produced in the world. Lab-grown meat could potentially be very popular in these countries, too.
A Meaty Issue
And many environmentalists would like a ban on raising animals on farms because of the great amount of resources this requires, ranging from land to water; and the animals grazing there are leading contributors to greenhouse gases, an important concern in some circles.
Aleph’s process has none of these problems. “We’re getting closer to our vision of creating a cellular steak that provides the look and feel of the steak we all know,” a company spokesperson said. “We’ve successfully produced the first pieces of beef steak grown from natural cells without harming any animals.”
Meanwhile, other companies are also making progress in their lab-grown meat, and the number of companies working on this technology are competing with each other to become the first to successfully develop this product.
Whoever reaches the finish line first will earn a great deal of prestige in both the food and scientific industries, not to mention the possible windfall profits. The runners-up, too, should also be able to share in the rewards.
Moreover, the race to develop lab-grown food is being spurred by those who believe that conventional farming does a great deal of environmental harm to the planet. And various scientific studies back up this concern. For example, one major study found that just 15% of beef production creates approximately 1.3 billion tons of CO2 equivalents and requires approximately 2.3 billion acres of land.
A separate study conducted by a Harvard scientist found that methane and nitrous oxide are produced in huge quantities by livestock, and these gases are purportedly significant contributors to global warming.
Aleph’s projection of another two years until its technology is perfected may seem like a long time. However, even before then, it probably will be sold in small quantities, possibly in restaurants or specialty stores. Meanwhile, the appetites of a lot of people have been whetted and they are waiting anxiously for that time.
Sources: dailymail.co.uk; livestrong.com