Meat without Animals: The Potential of Lab Meat and Meat Replacements
9 minute read
Updated on: 14 Dec 2020
For thousands of years, humans have relied on animals to convert energy from plants into meat. However, this is both inefficient and environmentally damaging . What if meat, and meat-like products, could be made without needing large herds of livestock?
Could we grow meat without killing animals?
All animals start as a group of stem cells. These are cells that are able to divide and develop into many different cell types.
Stem cells from embryos are particularly flexible, and are able to mature into almost any cell type. A small number of these stem cells are retained through to adulthood, and are used to maintain and repair the tissues that make up the adult’s body .
By extracting and growing these cells outside the animal’s body, scientists have successfully “grown” meat in the lab! How?
Meat is made of muscle. So to grow meat we actually need to grow muscle cells:
- Stem cells are harvested from the animal, either from an embryo or from adult muscle
- The cells are first grown in small dishes, under specific environmental conditions, in the presence of specific nutrients and proteins. It is this culture medium that instructs the stem cells to develop into muscle cells
- The cells are transferred to a large tank called a bioreactor where they continue to grow and divide
- Cells in the bioreactor are grown on an edible 3D frame, which gives the final product its meaty structure