How do you make cultured meat a reality?
As the world’s leading organization advancing cultured meat since 2004, New Harvest has already made important strides in the science of cellular agriculture. And most importantly, we’ve made these developments open and accessible to everyone. Believe it or not, all that we have been able to build in this field is thanks to the generosity of just over 600 donors worldwide!
As a completely donor-funded 501(c)(3) non-profit, our goal is to raise a total of $1 million by the end of 2017, to support the foundational research of cellular agriculture through the New Harvest Research Fellowship program and share the knowledge we generate on a variety of platforms, to many audiences. Will you help us reach our goal?
So how do we get closer to a world of cultured animal products?
With The 4 Building Blocks of Cultured Meat
The meat we eat today is made up of muscle and fat cells, connective tissue, vasculature, and bone. Thanks to research that has already taken place, we know that it’s possible to grow muscle and fat cells from culture. So far, researchers have had to start with cells from slaughtered animals. New Harvest wants to change that by introducing a line of starter cultures for some of the different types of meat, and making them available for researchers to order from a catalogue, rather than a visit to a slaughterhouse.
We’ve already started the work on developing some of these cell lines, and we hope to make these openly available to any scientists who want to try their hand at furthering cultured meat R&D, meaning that instead of having just a few research efforts on cultured meat (as there are today), there can be hundreds, collectively furthering advances in the field faster than ever before.
If you’re familiar with tissue culture, you may have heard that fetal bovine serum (FBS) is the medium used to grow cell cultures in. It’s a very expensive way to feed cells, and an unsustainable animal byproduct. If cultured meat is ever to be produced at the kind of scale where it can be found in a restaurant or grocery store, we will need to come up with a suitable medium that is just as rich in nutrients, but affordable, appetizing, and from a source that can be relied upon well into the future.
The good news is that there is a lot of promising research which shows that it is possible to create an animal-free culture medium. And finding an animal serum-free medium could be a groundbreaking development not just for cultured meat production, but for tissue research with medical applications as well.
Muscle cells need to stick onto a surface before they become meat. Whether you’re making a hamburger, meatball, sausage, or a more structured meat product like a chicken breast or steak, an edible material for the muscle and fat cells to grow on is needed. The scaffold materials that are currently used in tissue engineering are expensive, unsustainable for food production, and less than ideal in a culinary sense for making a thick cut of meat. What we need is a porous (so cells throughout a 3-dimensional structure can be nourished), edible, and readily available scaffold that will mimic the taste, texture, and composition of conventional meat.
Once it’s ready for consumers to eat, cultured meat won’t be made in test tubes or petri dishes. In order for it to become a reasonably priced product, it needs to be produced in industrial scale bioreactors (a bioreactor is a machine which influences biological processes, like the growth of muscle and fat tissue), not too unlike what you’d find in a modern beer brewery today. Currently, there is still a need to obtain the fundamental data on the amount and type of inputs (including feed for the cells, and the energy requirements) for the cells to grow in the most efficient way possible, and this will inform the bioreactor design.
We are working with engineers with the right expertise to develop brewery-type machinery specially designed to grow muscle cells for the production of cultured meat.
New Harvest is already tackling these scientific challenges with an amazing roster of scientists at lab benches, collaborating to build the field of cellular agriculture. But this field is still in its early stages, and further research is needed.
So what’s missing?
Help us raise $1,000,000 this year!
New Harvest’s work towards making cellular agriculture a reality is truly powered by donors like you. Regular individuals just like you are giving what they can to fund research without compromising on values like openness, transparency, and accessibility.
Donating to New Harvest is the single most effective way for us to get closer to answers to questions like: When will cultured meat be on dinner plates and store shelves? How will cultured meat be regulated? What will cellular agriculture food products look like? But it can’t happen without your support!