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 bringing cultured, animal-free foods closer to supermarket shelves.
This December, all gifts up to a total of $100,000 will be matched by the Jeremy Coller Foundation. This means that the impact of your donation to advance new, much needed cultured meat research in 2017 will be doubled!
There are so many reasons to support the creation of real meat, without animals.
Pound for pound, beef is one of the most resource intensive foods in the world.
The environmental impact of beef production is what inspired Mark Post, creator of the world’s first cultured meat hamburger, to start with beef. Skipping showers and doing your part to offset greenhouse gas emissions by riding your bike is one thing, but what if we could bypass the animal and just grow the muscle and fat cells we want, without all the land and water use, cow farts, pollution, and slaughter? If you’re a beef lover who is primarily concerned about the environmental impacts and sustainability of meat production, then cultured beef is where it’s at.
Imagine chicken produced from cell culture… that actually tastes like chicken!
Our insatiable appetite for chicken has led to some pretty freaky changes to the modern breed of chicken most commonly found in factory farms - they’re now selectively bred to grow faster and larger than ever before. And they’re smaller than cows or pigs, so greater numbers of them have to be killed to meet the growing demand for breast meat, drumsticks, and chicken wings. Chickens are by far the most slaughtered land animal in the world, with close to 9 billion killed in the US alone per year. Turkeys come at a close second in the US, at over 232 million slaughtered per year. That’s well over 9 billion reasons to help support cultured avian tissue research.
Did you know? Pigs are highly social, intelligent animals with cognitive abilities on par with dogs, dolphins, chimpanzees, and even human toddlers.
Unfortunately for pigs, they also happen to be the source of delicious bacon. It might seem like a far off dream right now, but being able to culture bacon, pulled pork, pork chops and sausages, and pork rinds (if you’re into that kind of thing) can become a reality, if enough research is supported. Culturing pork meat means getting to enjoy pork products without the guilt, and as an added bonus, hopefully no side of deadly antibiotic resistance either.
If you thought the numbers of chickens and turkeys slaughtered per year were bad, you might wanna sit down for this one.
Exact statistics on the number of sea animals killed for food are hard to come by, but estimates are in the hundreds of billions. We’re eating fish, shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and other sea animals at such an extreme rate that wild populations cannot be sustained. And with ocean pollution on the rise and concerns like mercury toxicity in species like tuna, maybe it’s time to rethink how we source our fish. By growing fish from the cell level up, we’ll no longer need to worry about mercury poisoning, overfishing and extinction, or coming across a parasitic worm in your sashimi.
So how do we make a more cultured world, where we can have meat without harming animals, people, or the planet?
With The 4 Building Blocks of Cultured Meat
The meat you eat today is made up of muscle and fat cells. We already know that it’s possible to produce meat by growing these cells from culture. So far, researchers have had to take these cells from slaughtered animals. New Harvest wants to change that by introducing a line of starter cultures for all of the different types of meat that exist, and making them available for researchers to order via a catalogue, rather than a visit to a slaughterhouse.
We’ve already started working with researchers who are developing the first cultured meat cell lines in the world, starting with turkey. These will be made openly available to any and all researchers who want to try their hand at furthering cultured meat R&D, meaning that instead of having just a handful of scientists working on cultured meat in the world, 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 is the medium used to grow cell cultures in. It’s a very expensive way to feed the meat cells, and an unsustainable byproduct of the factory farm system. If we want cultured meat to be produced at the kind of scale where it can be found in restaurants and grocery stores, we will need to come up with a suitable medium that is just as rich in nutrients for the cells, but affordable 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 that shows that it is possible to create a completely animal free medium. Not only would finding a serum-free medium be groundbreaking for cultured meat production, it would also significantly reduce our dependence on animals for all kinds of tissue research, like medicine!
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 scaffolds that are currently used in tissue engineering are expensive, unsustainable, and less than ideal for making a thicker cut of meat. What we need is a porous (so the 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), similar to 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 already has the research plan in place, and an amazing roster of scientists ready to hit the lab bench and collaborate to bring cultured meat to you as soon as possible.
So what’s missing?
Help us raise $200,000 this December!
New Harvest’s work towards making cellular agriculture a reality is truly powered by donors like you. The generosity of regular individuals giving what they can is the only way we’re able to fund research without compromising our mission of keeping the science open-source, transparent, and accessible.
Donating to New Harvest is the single most effective way to reduce the timeline of when we can expect cultured meat on dinner plates. And this month, your impact will be doubled through our gift match! Will you help us reach our goal?