Improving the costs and yields of lab-grown meat

Posted Jan 14, 2020 by Tim Sandle
Investment in lab-grown meet continues, with the search for the type of product that will taste more realistic to ‘real meat’ and which can also be produced to scale. Researchers have put forward a new process that could deliver a consistent product.
Mark Post  a professor at Maastricht University  holds the world's first lab-grown beef burger
Mark Post, a professor at Maastricht University, holds the world's first lab-grown beef burger
Meat consumption continues to increase globally, despite the popularism of veganism in some societies. Currently, a typical person is consuming some 20 more kilograms of meat per year, when compared to 1961. The current level of consumption stands at 43 kilograms per person per year. Behind this statistic is the fact that providing for this growing demand is proving challenging, as are the environmental challenges associated with meat production (including loss of rainforests and the issues surrounding antimicrobial resistance). For these reasons, various research projects have been established to improve so-termed ‘lab-grown’ meat.
There are two approaches with ‘meat substitutes’. The first is creating proteins that resemble meat in taste and texture, but which are not meat based. The second approach involves creating meat through culturing techniques. It is with this second approach that the new research relates.
A concern with culturing meat is that the end product either doe snot look or taste like meat, or where a satisfactory product is created it cannot be produced to scale.
The new development sets out to create a good tasting product and on a larger scale. This development, which comes from Harvard University, deploys edible gelatin scaffolds. According to Laboratory Roots, these scaffolds have been used to effectively grow rabbit and cow muscle cells. The use of the scaffolds allowed the researchers to create appropriately long fibers of fat and muscle cells, which are key to giving the cultured meat the appropriate texture.
The meat is made by taking a muscle sample from an animal. Scientists then collect stem cells from the tissue, using biological processes to multiply the cells dramatically and allow them to differentiate into primitive fibers that then bulk up to form muscle tissue.
The researchers demonstrate how their use of extruded gelatin microfibers recapitulated the structural and biochemical features of natural muscle tissues.
The research has been published in the journal npj Science of Food. The research paper is titled “Muscle tissue engineering in fibrous gelatin: implications for meat analogs.”