Lab—grown meat, otherwise known as cultured meat, is produced from in vitro cell culture. An article by Scientific American explains the process further: muscle cells are grown in a nutrient serum after which they are manipulated into muscle—like fibers. The artificial fibers are later enriched with nutrients and mechanically stretched, which is a crucial step that increases both the size of the muscle cells and their protein content. The only caveat is that the first step in the process does require a live animal — a small sample of its muscle to be precise. Stunningly, when fed the nutrient-rich serum, the small cells «turn into muscle cells and proliferate, doubling in number roughly every few days».
There is currently an abundance of startups that are developing synthetic meat, some of which even work with fish and chicken. A few to name are Finless Foods, Mosa Meat, SuperMeat, and Memphis Meats. Memphis Meats Inc. — a Berkeley, California based startup — raised a colossal total of «$161 million to commercialize its lab—grown chicken, beef, and other products» wrote the Wall Street Journal. It is safe to say that the cellular agriculture industry is booming just at the right time — when global warming is increasingly starting to leave a trace on our planet.
For decades, pastoral farming was not only dominating the supply chain, but also utilizing «about 70% of agricultural land», generating «14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions», and being «one of the leading causes of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution», as outlined in an article by the Guardian. Perhaps, clean meat is our chance to repair some of the damage.
Although cultured meat is a laudable environmentally friendly alternative, it comes at a price, a high price. Indeed, a New York Times article writes that when the first lab—grown burger was unveiled in 2013, «it was estimated to have cost $330,000 for a single five-ounce patty: equivalent to $1.2 million per pound of beef». Encouragingly, the cost has since been on a decline. A recent piece published in the Scientific American highlights that in 2018, Memphis Meats reported that «a quarter—pound of its grown beef costs about $600».
To a certain degree, the rocket—high numbers can be explained by the advanced technology behind the clean meat industry as it requires large bioreactors. A bioreactor is a vessel in which a biological reaction takes place. Microorganisms, enzymes, tissues, plant cells, and animal cells are the biological systems involved, while the bioreactor provides an optimal environment for their growth. Similarly, the nutrient—rich serum whose typical ingredients include amino acids, sugars, and others, might be expensive on a mass scale.
Is Kazakhstan ready to eat lab—grown meat? Perhaps, however, a more important question is whether it has the right technology and other resources to not only make the product on a large scale but ensure that it is affordable.
More to explore: