Cultured beef: medical technology to produce food (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 2014)

This publication by Mark Post was summarized by Tom Ben-Arye, with edits by Jason Weiss. The original paper can be accessed here.  


Cultured beef can meet the growing demand for meat while dramatically lowering the ecological effects of traditional meat production, and its adoption by the global population is more likely than transitioning from meat to insect protein or vegetarianism. In order to produce cultured meat, tissue engineering techniques made for regenerative medicine are being optimized for bovine cells and food production.

The media show in which the first cultured beef burger was presented sent a message to the public, scientists, donors and investors that cultured meat is a feasible, ethical and ecological alternative to the current unsustainable meat industry. A consumer acceptance survey of the Dutch population showed that when given information about the consequences of cultured meat, most people were in favor of cultured meat (68%) and were willing to try it (52%), indicating the ‘yuck factor’ can be resolved with the inevitable beef crisis which will lower product availability and increased prices.

Further research must be conducted to improve this proof-of-concept product. Fat tissue development can improve the fat content of the product. Optimizing the abundant protein composition (actin, myosin and myoglobin) by improving muscle fiber maturation can improve the product mimicry in several parameters. Aromatic molecules and small peptides have been identified as responsible for taste, which may be also optimized by muscle and fat tissue maturation. Generating tissues thicker than 0.5 mm requires muscle vascularization. Ways to improve product cost and efficiency still need to be developed, as well as eliminating the use of antibiotics and fetal bovine serum.