Would you download beef? A question that may seem strange but with the current worries over horse content in beef it makes that question genuinely interesting. It was one of the many questions that Modern Meadow’s CEO, Andras Forgacs fielded as he took part in a Q&A session on Reddit.
Modern Meadow is a father and son team who are aiming to change the way we harvest meat. If you take a look at their website you see some amazing statistics: Livestock travels 1,000 miles from farm to fridge, one third of all available land globally is used for livestock production, by 2050 70% more meat will be required to feed the world, it takes over 75 square feet of land to make one hamburger and livestock contributes to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. These are just a selection of the harrowing stats. But Modern Meadow believe their process of 3D printing meat could do away with all of those statistics and potentially, well not to be grandiose, save the world.
Essentially they harvest cells from any animal, without any harm or slaughtering done to said animal, they can then culture these cells, add vitamins and fat content and basically print off something that can then be turned into the burger patties we know and love. Andras’ father Gabor Forgacs demonstrated at TEDMED the process and then ate a piece of what he calls “In-Vitro Meat”.
Here is a selection of some of our favourite questions and answers, for the full transcript see Reddit:
whereisria: What kind of meat do you print? Beef? Fish? Pork? Or everything? (Human??)
Andras: Theoretically, we could make meat from any kind of muscle. That said, we are working on beef first since we want to demonstrate success in something well established. We had previously made samples in pork for our demo at TEDMED but the focus now is on beef.
As we achieve the right proof of concept with beef, we may branch out to other types of high value and environmentally taxing meats as well such as pork, blue-fin tuna, etc.
Human meat is not on the menu. Sorry.
Shiv4m:That pig diagram on the Solve for X conference seems a bit scary just because I don't understand it. Yes it will be more efficient for us to eat this rather than raising animals to slaughter, but is this stuff healthy? What does this 'serum' consist of?
Andras:Good question. The meat that comes from this process will be healthy and, in fact, can be healthier in ways that are difficult to achieve for conventionally grown meat. We can control fat content (and type), vitamins, etc. Importantly, this won't be sold to the public without being thoroughly tested and demonstrated to be safe.
The approach in the pig diagram is largely cell culture followed by bio-fabrication of muscle tissue, maturation of these tissues and then preparing this muscle into meat products (flavouring, texturing, etc.).
The culture media is very standard and consists of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, salts and simple sugars like glucose. We are working to optimize our cell culture media to be plant based and independent of animal products.
mitchell007: How soon can we expect your "meat" to be in our grocery stores?
Andras: That will take a while since it has to be perfected first and then has to be approved by regulators such as FDA and USDA. As we perfect it, we will organize small tastings but we won't be able to sell it in stores without full approval. That could take up to a decade or more. It is also possible that this product will be available for sale abroad before it is sold in the US.
newyankee: What is the input , what is the output ? Explain like i am five, for 1 kg of meat , what is needed ?
Andras:The input are largely animal cells (muscle, fat and a couple other types - taken from a donor animal through a biopsy) and cell culture media (a soup in which the cells grow made of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, salts, sugars) and then energy to run the process. Output is muscle tissue that is then matured/conditioned until it is processed into meat products.
punkrockpete: Are the input animal cells consistent with the output? Or will there be a blending of pig/cow/horse etc to create "beef"?
Andras: No blending of different species. Pig stays pig. Cow stays cow. Etc. We are using multiple cell types from each animal but staying with the same animal. In fact, an advantage of this approach is that it can ensure purity. Because we control the inputs and have such a tight process, we know the exact ingredients of every batch. No mystery meat surprises like the recent one from the UK.