The world’s first slaughter-free meat, cultured meat from Mosa Meat
“This technology has the capability to transform how we view our world.”
— Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google and funder of Mosa Meat
In 2013, Mark Post, Chief Scientific Officer at Mosa Meat, unveiled the world’s first hamburger made by growing cow cells, rather than slaughtering an animal. Now they’re developing the first commercial products.
The mission is to produce real meat for the world’s growing population that is delicious, healthier, better for the environment, and kind to animals.
By 2050, global meat demand will be 70% higher than today’s level. Our planet simply doesn’t have enough land and water to produce this much meat using animals. And trying to do so would devastate the environment. That’s why Mosa Meat is so committed to creating a sustainable way to make real meat.
Mosa Meat generates an estimated 96% less greenhouse gas emissions, uses 99% less land and 96% less water than livestock meat. It helps protect our planet from climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss.
Mosa Meat is produced in a clean environment using only natural ingredients, so it’s free from bacterial and chemical contamination found in conventional meat. In other words, it’s healthier for you!
Mosa Meat is the same as livestock meat, but doesn’t require a single animal to be slaughtered, nor experience a factory farm. By changing the way we make meat, we can save billions of animals from suffering.
to make real meat to feed our fast-growing population in a sustainable, healthy and animal-friendly way.
in interview with Hannah Tait, Mosa Meat
What is the definition of cultured meat?
Cultured meat is the same thing as regular meat, but just produced differently.
Meat is made of muscle and fat tissue, which we normally get by slaughtering animals. But, instead of slaughtering an animal, we can also grow this same tissue directly from animal cells – and this is what cultured meat is. It’s real meat that under a microscope is indistinguishable from meat that comes from a slaughtered cow, pig or chicken.
What are the benefits of cultured meat in terms of health, environment and animals welfare?
Cultured meat has the potential to have enormous positive impacts on food security, the environment, animal welfare and human health. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that the demand for meat is going to increase by 70% by 2050. Current production methods alone will not be able to satisfy this demand. If we want there to be enough meat for everyone in the future, we need another way of producing it.
Furthermore, livestock meat production contributes significantly to global warming through unchecked releases of methane, a greenhouse gas 20-30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. It has been projected that cultured meat could generate significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions (perhaps as much as 96% less emissions), helping us avoid the disastrous consequences of climate change.
Beyond climate change, livestock production has a number of other serious effects on the environment. For example, raising livestock (and growing crops to feed them) uses large amounts of land, leading to mass deforestation. For instance, large parts of the Amazon rainforest have already been cleared for cattle. This in turn leads to drastic loss of biodiversity. Each day we lose upwards of 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest, and with it about 135 plant, animal and insect species. That’s 50,000 species going extinct every year. It is expected that cultured meat production would use 99% less land, which would mean that land could even potentially be reforested.
Of course, cultured meat could also have an enormous impact in reducing the suffering of the billions of animals reared for food production each year.
And, importantly, it could also be very beneficial for our own health. As it is produced in a sterile environment, we expect that cultured meat will be less prone to bacterial contamination, which currently causes millions of incidences of foodborne illness every year. There is also the very important public health issue of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The heavy use of antibiotics (including the huge quantity given to farm animals) means that bacteria are increasingly resistant to the drugs we have to treat them. The World Health Organization describes superbugs as one of the greatest threats to the human species. Because cultured meat will be produced in a sterile environment, it will be possible to reduce or eliminate the use of antibiotics in meat production, which could help significantly in controlling the spread of superbugs.
What is the process of making cultured meat?
The first step is to take some cells from an animal, such as a cow if we’re making beef. This is done by a veterinarian and no harm is caused to the animal. The cells that are extracted are stem cells. These are “undifferentiated” cells that have the capacity to multiply, and to turn into another type of cell, such as a muscle or fat cell.
The stem cells are fed nutrients and growth factors (naturally-occurring proteins that promote cell growth). This causes them to proliferate, until we get trillions of cells. This growth takes place in a vessel called a “bioreactor”, which looks similar to the tanks that beer is fermented in.
Once we have lots of undifferentiated cells, the next step is for them to become muscle or fat cells. In order to trigger this transformation, we stop feeding the cells the growth factors, and this causes them to start differentiating naturally. At this stage, we still have lots of loose cells.
But meat is made of muscle tissue – that is, lots of muscle cells that are organised into a structure (a muscle fibre). So the next step is for the cells to form into tissues. To make muscle tissue, we put the muscle cells onto a gel scaffold and, with this structural support, the muscle cells start to naturally contract, put on bulk, and form into muscle fibres.
When we layer all the muscle fibres together (about 20,000 fibres for one hamburger patty) and add the fat we have meat!
The meat can then be processed using standard food technologies. For example, we could put the meat through a grinder to make ground beef.
Does the process involves genetic modifications?
No, Mosa Meat does not do any genetic modification. As the cells we use are doing what they would do inside the animal’s body, there is no need to modify them. Furthermore, genetically modified foods are banned in much of Europe, where Mosa Meat is based.
What distinguishes Mosa Meat from others in this field?
Our team was the first to unveil cultured meat, and our Chief Scientific Officer, Prof Mark Post, is considered the leading scientist globally on this topic. We pride ourselves on the strength of our scientific team. In terms of our products, Mosa Meat is defined by our emphasis on high quality. We are committed to making products that contain the same mature tissues as livestock meat so that they have the same taste and texture. We don’t use genetic modification or add plant-based fillers – it’s real meat!
What is about the approvals to sell your products in the market?
Cultured meat will be considered a novel food in Europe, so the pathway to market will include applying via the European Food Safety Authority. The regulators will then decide whether the product is safe for public consumption. We anticipate this process to take 1.5-2 years, and we are ready to begin the process soon. We don’t foresee any issues with this as the product is the same as regular meat.
When do you expect first of your products sold in the market?
We are aiming to have our product on the market in the next few years, as explained above the regulatory process will take between 1.5 to 2 years and we are ready to begin this soon.
On which types of meat do you focus (chicken, pork…)?
We are focussing first on beef products because cows have such an outsized negative impact on the environment. Cows use the most resources, generate the most greenhouse gas emissions, and have the most deleterious impact on the planet.
Ones you master the technology; can you create all animal type meats (pork, chicken..)?
Yes, we can theoretically make cultured meat from any animal that has stem cells that can turn into muscle and fat cells. As far as we know, that is the case for all the animals we commonly eat, including cows, pigs, chickens and fish.
And cultured meat as fish substitute?
There are some companies working on making cultured seafood.
What are your current costs per kg cultured meat; and what costs do you expect in the future?
Ultimately, cultured meat should be less expensive than conventional meat because its production is more efficient. But, as with most new technologies, the first products will be sold on a small scale at a high price. As we scale up, the price will come down, and we aim to ultimately be competitive with meat products currently in supermarkets.
What is about the taste of cultured meat; is it similar to conventional meat?
Yes, cultured meat tastes the same as conventional meat. We are aiming for our first product to be molecularly the same as conventional meat, meaning it will taste the same.
Plant based meat has different properties during cooking. Does cultured meat faces the same issue?
Because it is real meat, it has the same properties we’re used to from conventional meat. For example, it “bleeds” like conventional meat, and sizzles and browns when you cook it.
Making minced meat may work easily. Will there be steaks via the cultured meat route in the future?
Producing a larger and more complex structure (such as a steak) presents a larger scientific challenge so will take longer, but we believe we can do it in the future.
What are 3D meat Printer?
3D printers are used to create more complex structures in cultured meat, such as steak.
Other companies as Beyond Meat concentrate on plant based meat. Could plant based meat and cultured meat technologies be combined in the future?
We see new high-tech plant-based products like the Impossible Burger as complementary to cultured meat. We are excited about the prospect for people to replace some of their meat diet with sustainable plant-based substitutes, but we also think that some people will continue to want to eat meat. Therefore, we think there will be enormous demand for cultured meat products.
What are currently still the biggest hurdles to manufacture cultured meat as a product in large quantities?
One of the biggest hurdles is scaling up production, this is currently underway as we are currently constructing our pilot factory.
Hannah Tait, we thank you for this interview and wish you soon success in upscaling