Scientists Announce Plan to Sell Cultured Meat in 2020

A beef burger created by stem cells harvested from a living cow is held for a photograph by Mark Post, a Dutch scientist, following a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. The 5-ounce burger, which cost more than 250,000 euros ($332,000) to produce, was developed by Post of Maastricht University with funding from Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a landmark announcement, Dutch researchers revealed that they want to sell the world’s first cultured meat product in 2020, or just five years’ time. Speaking with the BBC, Peter Verstrate, who is part of Dr. Mark Post’s team at Maastricht University, announced the name of a new firm, Mosa Meat, which he said is “confident” can bring cultured meat to market in half a decade.

Acknowledging that it will likely be an “exclusive” product at first, Verstrate believes the price will come down once there is a proven demand.

Needless to say, this is incredibly exciting news for all those with have expressed strong interest in the potential positive impacts of cultured meat technology, from the environmental, sustainability, and clean energy movements to food safety, global hunger, and animal rights advocates.

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Scientists Announce Plan to Sell Cultured Meat in 2020

Impossible Foods Nets over $100 Million in New Funding

ImpossibleFoodsLogo

In an incredible round of fund-raising, intrepid plant-meat startup Impossible Foods recently received $108 million in new capital, according to TechCrunch.

The amazing show of financial support – from backers including Bill Gates and Li Ka-shing – is strong evidence of the broad appeal for a sustainable, tasty burger made completely from plant ingredients. This latest round of fund-raising might also signify the true quality of Impossible Food’s highly secretive products. We’ll just have to wait to find out, but this is an exciting development for the future of new, animal-free meats, nonetheless.

Impossible Foods Nets over $100 Million in New Funding

The Star Players

The emerging field of animal-free animal products is being pioneered by a bold and visionary group of entrepreneurs, start-ups,  scientists, and investors. Based on their primary approach, they fall into two distinct categories: those who are using the powers of synthetic biology to create actual meat, dairy, or egg products using harvested animal cells, yeasts, microbes and other organisms, and those who are turning to plants as the new medium for making animal-like proteins, flavors, and textures.

The following list of companies and research projects is not exhaustive – there are a number of startups and research labs working on different animal products (shark fins, horseshoe crab blood) that are not included here.

This list features the most prominent and well-funded organizations working on sustainable and humane solutions for animal-derived foods.They represent the exciting advent of a field of endeavor that will fundamentally disrupt the colossal, massively wasteful, and grossly inhumane industries of conventional animal agriculture.

Here they are, separated into respective meat, dairy or eggs categories as well as by their biotech or plant-based approach.

MEAT – BIOTECH

DR. MARK POST AND MAASTRICHT UNIVERSITY

EDITORIAL USE ONLY. A burger made from Cultured Beef, which has been developed by Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday August 5, 2013. Cultured Beef could help solve the coming food crisis and combat climate change. Commercial production of Cultured Beef could begin within ten to 20 years. Photo credit should read: David Parry/PA

Photo by: David Parry/PA

Since 2008, Dr. Mark Post has led the world’s foremost research lab in growing real animal meat using in-vitro tissue methods. His lab created the world’s first edible cultured meat burger, which was introduced in a live television taste-test in 2013.

Dr. Post is also helping to organize the world’s first international cultured meat symposium, which will take place from October 18th – 20th in Maastricht in The Netherlands. The event aims to bring together leading scientists from a diverse array of disciplines  – including engineers, food scientists, food technologists and biomaterials experts – to facilitate the exchange of ideas to help driver faster innovation of cultured meat technology.

MODERN MEADOW

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Modern Meadow is a Brooklyn-based startup that is also working on creating animal meat, including fish, using in-vitro culturing methods. In 2014, they introduced a prototype for “steak chips” at a Google Solve for X event , and CEO Andras Forgacs spoke about his unique vision for cultured meat production earlier this year at the Bitten Conference in NYC. Modern Meadow is also notable for its groundbreaking materials program, which is using animal skin cells to grow real leather and other biofabrics.

MEAT – PLANTS

IMPOSSIBLE FOODS

ImpossibleFoods

Impossible Foods is a bit of a dark house in the the race for a plant-based burger that actually tastes like a burger. Several companies and startups have tried but ultimately failed in their efforts to replicate the full flavor and juiciness of cow-based beef.

But Impossible Foods might be the incredible exception. Headed by Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown, it has held a decidedly low-key profile, only periodically sending out somewhat enigmatic messages about its first product, the Impossible Burger, which is slated to be released in late 2016 (though it may make select appearances before then.) Patrick Brown and the Impossible Foods lab were interviewed in this fascinating video in 2014, which went viral when it re-surfaced earlier this year.

If The Impossible Burger can truly deliver on what it is promises – a truly delicious, slaughter-free, sustainable burger – its impact will be profound, to say the least. We will have to wait and see if the Impossible Burger can truly achieve the impossible; in the mean time, The New Omnivore will be closely watching its development.

TOMATO SUSHI

TomatoSushi

Sushi from tomatoes? This improbable-sounding idea actually turned out to be feat of culinary genius, and has made sustainable, fish-free sushi available to all. Created by internationally renowned chef James Corwell, tomato sushi was first conceived as a solution to the massive overfishing that is decimating populations of tuna and other popular sushi fish.

Using a special method known as “sous vide” cooking, Corwell transforms ordinary slices of tomato into pieces of raw “tuna”, with nearly exact fish-like color, flavor, and texture that is visually nothing short of stunning. Tomato Sushi has received glowing reviews from omnivores and vegans alike, and is currently available in several San Francisco-area retail shops, as well as for bulk purchase online.

DAIRY – BIOTECH

MUUFRI 

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Real milk, without cows. This simple but powerful idea is being pursued by two bioengineers, Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi, who, with the support of New Harvest launched Muufri ( a word play on “moo” and “free”) in 2014. Dairy milk production is both environmentally and ethically problematic, and cow-less milk promises to provide a sustainable, ethical solution to the greenhouse gas pollution, excessive water consumption, and inhumane practices that are standard in large-scale dairy operations.

By synthesizing a mixture of special sugars, proteins, fats, and water (the basic components of milk), Muufri is working to create an identical product to bovine milk that will not only taste like the conventional stuff, but can be manufactured to be free of allergens and lactose, as well.

In September 2015, Muufri was selected as a runner-up in the Dutch Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, an international sustainability competition, and awarded over $200,000 to continue their research and development of animal-free milk.

COUNTER CULTURE LABS

CounterCultureLabs2

As their name implies, Counter Culture Labs isn’t your typical research laboratory They encourage the concept of “citizen science”, and generously open their Oakland, CA-based research space to all amateur scientists, biohackers, and curious tinkerers.

Their flagship project is Real Vegan Cheese – an inspired effort to make real dairy cheese with yeast-borne proteins instead of cow’s milk .  Melty, stretchy, gooey cheese without any dairy is the holy grail for most vegans, considering the low quality of plant-based cheeses.

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year to upgrade their lab space and equipment, CC Labs is hard at work on their much-anticipated project, which was the subject of this superb piece by Wired.com. The Real Vegan Cheese initiative holds the best hope yet for all those waiting on real, cruelty-free cheese to become a reality.

EGGS – BIOTECH

CLARA FOODS

ClaraFoodsLogo

The demand for eggs has shot up dramatically in the past few years. Even more valuable are egg whites – the clear part of the egg that is rich in protein and low in fat and cholesterol. These  desirable characteristics have made egg whites the “it” breakfast food of the last few years – and supply can’t keep up with the demand. Egg white prices more than doubled in the past two years, and 2015’s unprecedented outbreak of avian flu has pushed prices even higher.

Clara Foods wants to offer a solution to help meet the demand for this high-priced, low-supply egg product that is vulnerable to avian disease outbreaks. Using yeast to create the unique proteins found inside chicken eggs, Clara Foods (who win the award for most clever logo) hopes to disrupt the conventional egg white market with their more sustainable, healthy, and affordably-priced product, which will be identical in taste, appearance, and nutritional value to chicken-based egg whites. Furthermore, their products would be totally immune to avian diseases, and contain fewer allergens.

EGGS – PLANTS

HAMPTON CREEK

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Hampton Creek was first begun with the simple goal of producing an plant-derived egg replacer for industrial food-making. However, some four years later, they have introduced to the world several best-selling individual products including mayo and cookie dough, and have become one of the fastest-growing food companies of all time. Their products can be found in dozens of major national retailers from Wal-Mart and Target to Dollar Tree and 7-Eleven, and earlier this year secured a major deal with one of the world’s biggest food distributors, FoodBuy. CEO Josh Tetrick has been featured in countless articles, interviews and television shows as a thought-leader of the better food movement, and spoken onstage at leading food innovation and sustainability conferences.

And Hampton Creek appears to only be getting started.They have been hinting for months at the much-anticipated release of their egg-free scramble product, Just Scramble, which, if comparable in taste and texture to traditional scrambled eggs, could revolutionize this breakfast food and pose major competition to egg producers everywhere.

For now, we will just have to wait and see – but Hampton Creek stands as an incredible testimony to the potential of animal-free foods to positively influence the price market and food system.

NOTEWORTHY NAMES

NEW HARVEST 

NewHarvest

Founded in 2004, New Harvest is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and developing cultured meat technology. The organization and its executive director, Isha Datar, have also been instrumental in creating and launching different animal-free food startups, including Muufri and Clara Foods. They are also co-organizing the world’s first cultured meat symposium which will be held in Maastricht October 18th-20th.

INDIEBIO

IndieBioLogo

Recognizing the need for an incubator to foster independent biotech research, IndieBio was launched in 2014 to accelerate important synthetic biotech innovations. Based in San Francisco and Europe, IndieBio provides generous seed funding, scientific advisement, and expert mentorship to promising synthetic biology startups and research teams.

PLANT-BASED MEATS: GARDEIN & BEYOND MEAT 

GardeinLogoBeyondMeatLogo

There  are many brands of plant-based meat products on the market, but unfortunately, few are up to par in matching traditional meat’s overall taste and texture. Gardein and Beyond Meat, however, are two notable exceptions. Using proprietary ingredients and/or technology, Gardein and Beyond Meat have each produced impressive plant-based chicken and beef products, which are widely available for retail purchase.

Garden’s products are so good that several restaurant chains,like Yardhouse, have incorporated them into their main menu. Hopefully the influence of these company’s products will grow as more people try them and see that meat from plants can be as satisfying as the conventional kind.

The Star Players

New Meat and Why We Should Stop Saying “Vegan”

Since The New Omnivore is all about innovation and the betterment of meat, dairy and eggs, it’s only fitting that we use new, different terms to describe these non-traditionally produced foods . In the case of meat, “new meat” is a term I came up with that clearly and respectfully describes meat products created from plants or cultured meat methods, as opposed to other, less appealing names commonly attached to animal-free meats like fake meat, mock meat, meatless meat, faux meat, etc.

High-quality meats made from plants and, eventually, cultured tissue methods can be very delicious foods that stand on their own as culinary achievements of imagination, creativity, and skill. They deserve a name that properly elevates them next to conventional animal meat in taste, texture and overall quality. On the contrary, terms like “fake meat” unnecessarily and unfairly degrade them as inferior substitutes.

And it is important to note that even though these innovations are mostly animal-free, I actively avoid using the term “vegan” to describe them.This is because I’ve found that “vegan” as a word generally does more harm than good when trying to encourage non-vegans to try animal-free foods and products.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the problems with the “v” word, and why I encourage anyone who believes in new omnivorism to refrain from using it as well:

Veganism has a major image problem.

In my experience, when most people hear the word “vegan” they already have a pre-formed opinion of vegan people and vegan food that is pretty negative. Vegans tend to be viewed as an separate group of people who carry a holier-than-thou attitude toward the rest humanity because of their diet choices. And a majority of people believe vegan food is utterly bland, boring, strange, under-nourishing, and/or unsatisfying . Unfortunately,  there are far more bad vegan images and examples of vegan food out there than the opposite, and fair or not, this has caused irreparable harm to the idea of veganism for most people.

Labeling something “vegan” creates the idea that it is not normal.

Placing “vegan” into a discrete category outside the mainstream isn’t a great idea when you’re trying to make non-traditional, animal-free foods more appealing to everyone. By labeling certain foods “vegan”, we imply they are separate from the norm, and as a result are an alternative that people can perceive as strange or inferior. It doesn’t help that most foods labeled “vegan” usually are inferior in taste and quality to the animal-based versions, i.e. most plant-based meats and cheeses currently on the market. The majority of people would prefer to go with what is already normal, familiar, and satisfying, not new, foreign, and yucky.

Veganism has an identity crisis.

Most non-vegans believe a vegan diet is the opposite of an omnivorous one, in that it eliminates meat, dairy and eggs in favor of whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and other purely plant-based foods. A vegan, in theory, is not supposed to seek to make traditional animal foods out of plants, because eating animal foods would defeat the whole purpose of going vegan.

Yet, you need only witness the alternative meats section at Whole Foods or a site like FakeMeats.com to realize that vegans (and vegetarians) in fact do like meat and other animal foods… a lot. To outsiders, this consumption of animal-free meats by vegans creates a confusion. How can some vegans claim to hate meat but buy products that closely resemble beef, pork, chicken and seafood? It seems to be a strange contradiction and vegans themselves usually can’t fully articulate why it is they went vegan but still seek out non-vegan foods.

Actually, there is a simple explanation for it, and that is this: “meat” as a food product and “animals” as living creatures from where meat originates are two completely different things, cognitively speaking. Vegans and vegetarians are people who’ve made the connection between “meat” the inanimate product and “animals” the living, feeling creatures, and decide to renounce the former based on what they know about the latter. But they still very much crave meat as a food product completely separate from the living animal, like most of the rest of the population. And thus, you get the market for “vegan meats.”

But therein lies a problem. If a “vegan” in our common language is supposed to be the antithesis of a “carnivore”, how can we sensibly call something “vegan meat”? It’s at best an oxymoron and at worst nonsensical, confusing and just plain weird.

I created the term “new omnivore” in part to help clear up this confusion about animal-free meat, as well as to distinguish between vegans who love living on vegetables and those who don’t.

The truth is the word “vegan” does not properly describe those of its followers who actually have no problem with eating meat. There are actually many vegans who do enjoy the taste of meat, cheese, eggs and other animal products but staunchly object, on moral grounds, to the industries that produce them.

It means that, like almost everyone else, we want to eat meat and other animal foods, but in a different, better way. And that’s what new omnivorism is all about. And why “vegan” just doesn’t apply here.

New Meat and Why We Should Stop Saying “Vegan”

What is a New Omnivore?

A new omnivore is someone who wants to eat meat, dairy, eggs and other animal products in a better way, so that it causes less harm to the environment and much less harm to animals.

Instead of conventional animal farming, which is responsible for intense greenhouse gas pollution, overuse of natural resources, and routine abuse of farm animals, new omnivorism advocates consuming meat, dairy and egg products made from plants and biotechnology innovations.

This is partly because animal-free food has made huge advances in the last ten years. High-quality meats made with various proteins of soy, wheat, peas and other plants can now be found in most major supermarkets, and plant-only “butcher shops” and deli’s that specialize in handcrafted, artisan plant meats are a fast-emerging food trend.

On the technology front, cultured meat using cells replicated in special cultures to produce animal flesh promises to change the global food landscape. Cultured meat can provide us with the most popular meats we love, without the innumerable environmental and ethical problems found in conventional meat production. This technology is rapidly advancing, and as its costs and production become more scalable, we could see cultured meat available for retail purchase within the next decade.

Using plants and biotechnology to create the animal products we love has untold positive impacts for the planet, food safety, and animal welfare. Considering the grave problems posed by the modern animal agribusiness model, we must turn to new ways to make meat and animal products if we want to continue to enjoy them as we currently do.

Fortunately, we now reside in a place and time in history when it is finally possible to make animal-derived foods ourselves, and we are discovering that by making these things on our own, we can make them even better.

This is what The New Omnivore is all about – eating meat and other animal foods in a new and better way. So join us as we follow all the exciting news of the fast-emerging field dedicated to animal-free food innovation. We’re just getting started.

What is a New Omnivore?