Overview: This paper provides a review on the growing need for meat alternatives, the requirements for a successful meat alternative, and discusses the potential of cultured meat as an alternative to traditional livestock meat production.
- Three reasons to pursue alternatives to conventionally produced meat: 1) increase in meat demand, 2) environmental impact of livestock breeding/management, 3) animal and human health.
- Two requisites for alternatives to be accepted and industrialized: 1) indistinguishability and 2) efficiency.
- Existing meat alternatives are currently based on soy, milk proteins, wheat proteins, or mycoprotein.
- In vitro meat has been made a possible alternative based on stem cell isolation/identification, ex vivo cell culture, and tissue engineering. Challenges will include identifying the best cell type, determining the cell culture conditions for both proliferation and differentiation, and scaling up.
- Worldwide meat consumption will double in the next 40 years (FAO 2006).
- The Earth’s meat production capacity is near maximum (FAO 2011).
- The CO2, methane, NO, contribution to all greenhouse gases from livestock is 9, 39, 65% respectively (FAO 2006).
- Overconsumption of meat is responsible for ¼ of all ischemic heart disease, >1.8M deaths annually. (Larsson et al. 2006, Song et al. 2004)
- Total sales US 2010 frozen meat substitutes: $267M vs $74B in beef sales. (Salvage 2012).
As one of the alternatives for livestock meat production, in vitro culturing of meat is currently studied. The generation of bio-artiﬁcial muscles from satellite cells has been ongoing for about 15 years, but has never been used for generation of meat, while it already is a great source of animal protein. In order to serve as a credible alternative to livestock meat, lab or factory grown meat should be efﬁciently produced and should mimic meat in all of its physical sensations, such as visual appearance, smell, texture and of course, taste. This is a formidable challenge even though all the technologies to create skeletal muscle and fat tissue have been developed and tested. The efﬁcient culture of meat will primarily depend on culture conditions such as the source of medium and its composition. Protein synthesis by cultured skeletal muscle cells should further be maximized by ﬁnding the optimal combination of biochemical and physical conditions for the cells. Many of these variables are known, but their interactions are numerous and need to be mapped. This involves a systematic, if not systems, approach. Given the urgency of the problems that the meat industry is facing, this endeavor is worth undertaking. As an additional beneﬁt, culturing meat may provide opportunities for production of novel and healthier products.