Believer Meats and other lab-grown meat companies will give consumers a range of choices in addition to conventionally-grown meat. As we ready our products for consumers, more people are asking “how is lab-grown meat made?”
With recent USDA approvals of East Just and Upside Foods' cultivated meat, we are awaiting the necessary clearance to confirm our products are safe and ready for consumption. Soon, lab-grown meat products will be in stores and at restaurants around the USA and the world.
In this blog post, we will talk about how lab-grown meat is made, Believer Meats' approach to making meat products and how those products will differ and resemble other products in the industry.
What is Lab-Grown Meat?
Before we answer how is lab-grown meat made?, it is important to understand what lab-grown meat really is.
Lab-grown meat, also known as cultured or cell-based meat, is produced from animal cells grown in a lab. This process eliminates the need to raise and slaughter animals for food.
We begin by extracting cells from a living animal or an embryo and place them in a nutrient-rich environment where they can multiply and grow into muscle fibers. The result is a crave-worthy product that looks, tastes, and feels like conventionally-grown meat but was never part of an animal's body.
How is Lab-Grown Meat Made?
When discussing how lab-grown meat is made, it is important to note that different lab-grown meat companies are taking different approaches.
The lab-grown meat process sometimes begins by growing and replicating biopsied stem cells in a petri dish. At Believer, we use fibroblast cells, because they are more stable and replicate much more quickly, without genetic modification.
Since most cells have a finite lifespan and won't continue to divide and replicate forever, lab-grown meat companies have to figure out a way to keep the cells growing.
A popular method is to genetically alter animal cells so that they continue to reproduce indefinitely. While some lab-grown meat companies take this route, we have figured out a novel way to achieve the same result using a non-GMO process called "spontaneous immortalization."
At Believer, we allow these cells to replicate, first in small samples and eventually in larger volumes within bioreactors where they grow into a dense biomass — the key ingredient in lab-grown meat.
When the biomass reaches optimal density and volume, we remove it from the bioreactor, separate it from the nutrient-rich medium in which it grew, and then combine it with plant-based ingredients to give it the taste and texture of conventional meat.
Is Lab-Grown Meat Actually Meat?
The simplest answer to whether or not lab-grown meat is actually meat is "yes." Though it is produced in a lab, the product that comes out of our bioreactor mirrors conventional meat in terms of its molecular and chemical makeup.
It also has many of the same nutritional benefits as conventionally-grown meat; meaning you will be able to feel good about indulging in Believer Meats products without sacrificing on taste or health.
We are proud of the crave-worthy meat we have made and are excited about innovating and creating even more delicious products in the future. That is why we are going to market with our crave-worthy products as soon as we can while placing a high value on our safety standards.
By going to market with crave-worthy, albeit not perfect, products, we can include consumers in our journey and incorporate their feedback into future iterations. This is a similar model to how Tesla released earlier versions of its cars before they were perfect and continued to innovate.
How is Lab-Grown Meat Different from Plant-Based Meat?
While lab-grown meat and plant-based products both seek to address some of the most pressing challenges in the conventional animal agriculture industry, they are very different in terms of molecular and chemical makeup, not to mention taste, texture, and feel.
It is true that plant-based meat, cultivated meat, and conventionally-grown meat do share some ingredients. Plant-based meat, though, is made entirely from plants and does not contain any animal products.
Cultivated meat and conventionally-grown meat share the same genetic makeup. If you were to look at both of their cell structures under a microscope, you would see the same thing.
What are the Pros and Cons of Lab-Grown Meat?
Because lab-grown meat is enabled by such new technology, people want to know about the pros and cons of lab-grown meat. Understanding this will help them make decisions about consuming meat that are best for them and their families.
Pros of Lab Grown Meat
Lab-grown meat is made from animal cells grown in a laboratory setting instead of those harvested from an animal. The process, therefore, eliminates the need for factory farming, which can be cruel and environmentally damaging and not particularly sanitary.
Lab-grown meat also has the potential to reduce food waste, since it can be produced more efficiently than conventional meat production methods.
The pros of lab-grown meat include its sustainability, reduced environmental impact, and potential to reduce food waste. It could potentially provide a healthier alternative to conventional meat because it does not contain antibiotics and it is produced in a controlled environment.
Lab-grown meat could also help reduce global hunger by providing a more efficient way to produce protein-rich foods.
Cons of Lab-Grown Meat
Because the technology behind lab-grown meat is still relatively new, there are still some challenges associated with it.
For example, it is currently more expensive to produce compared to conventionally-grown meats and will likely remain so until production becomes more efficient and cost effective.
This is to be expected with any new technology. The first iterations of Teslas delivered on the company's mission to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy through increasingly affordable electric vehicles, though they were unaffordable for most people.
The few people that were able to buy Teslas in their early iterations helped the company improve its products and processes, making its price on par and sometimes cheaper than gas-powered vehicles today.
What are the Industry Challenges of Lab-Grown Meat?
While the technology and processes behind lab-grown meat has been in development for years, there are still several industry challenges that must be addressed before it can become a viable alternative to conventional meat production.
One of the biggest challenges facing lab-grown meat companies is scaling up production. Currently, producing lab-grown meat requires large amounts of stainless steel bioreactors and other equipment, which can be expensive and difficult to source.
Additionally, creating enough biomass, the materials grown from cells that is then processed into cultivated meat products, and then enough actual meat to make a difference in overall consumption levels requires an immense amount of resources.
Another challenge is replicating the texture of conventional meat. Lab-grown cells don't have much structure on their own, so we are using plant-based materials to create a product that looks and functions like real meat.
Finally, public awareness is another major challenge for lab-grown meat companies. Many people are wary of new technologies and cultivated meat is no different. This could make people less willing to try it until they understand more about its benefits and characteristics.
How Much Will Lab-Grown Meat Cost?
The cost of lab-grown meat has been steadily decreasing since 2013, when it cost over $300,000 to produce a five-ounce hamburger.
While we continue to make significant strides reducing our production costs, the cost of lab-grown meat still remains higher than conventional animal agriculture products due to the high costs associated with scaling up production and obtaining regulatory approval.
To make this technology more accessible and affordable for consumers, we are continuing research and development to reduce production costs and increase efficiency.
When Can I Buy Lab-Grown Meat?
While there is no concrete timeline on when people will widely be able to buy cultivated meat, there have been several recent developments that show the food category is gaining momentum.
Singapore and the USA are the only countries to have approved the sale of cultivated meat.
With the recent USDA approvals of GOOD Meat and Upside Foods' cultivated meat, consumers are one step closer to widely enjoying cultivated meat products in stores and at restaurants.
We at Believer Meats broke ground on our first U.S. commercial-scale production facility, which is poised to be the largest in the world capable of producing at least 22 million pounds of meat a year for consumers across the U.S. and beyond.
What Does Lab-Grown Meat Taste Like?
For lab-grown meat to truly make an impact, a significant number of people need to eat it. We know that addressing many of the challenges of the conventional animal agriculture industry is not enough to win the hearts and stomachs of consumers.
That is why we are dedicated to making our products taste as good or even better than the meat people are used to eating.
Today, our lab-grown meat tastes very similar to conventional meat. But we know there is still room for improvement. That is why we are excited to bring our products to market, let people enjoy them and use their feedback to iterate and create something even better.
Can Vegans Eat Lab-Grown Meat?
While lab-grown meat addresses many of the ethical concerns vegans have about the conventional meat industry, whether or not lab-grown meat products are suitable for each person is a matter of personal choice.
Lab-grown meat is produced without animal suffering or slaughter, making it an ideal option for vegans who want to enjoy the taste of meat without compromising their values. It does, however, contain animal cells that began from an initial, one-time sample from an animal or egg.
Additionally, lab-grown meat requires significantly less land and water than conventional farming methods, making it a much more sustainable choice, which aligns with many vegan’s ethics about food production.
The Future of Believer Meats' Cultivated Meat Products
We are continually developing this new technology that is needed to produce meat similar to and even better than conventionally-grown meat. We are improving our processes, so our products are affordable and accessible to anyone who wants to enjoy meat.
We are encouraged by the feedback we receive when people try our products for the first time and are excited about the progress we have made with our cultivated meat products. We understand, though, that there is room for continuous technology development and improvement.
We haven't reached the finish line yet. In fact, we still see a worthwhile, exciting journey ahead of us. From answering “how is lab-grown meat made?” to seeking a new, humane and delicious kind of meat, we ask you to join us on that journey.
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