Aleph Farms, an Israeli startup, has proudly announced their success in growing a steak in a lab using cells extracted from a living cow. This is a landmark accomplishment in the fake meat industry. Aleph Farms CEO Didier Toubia proclaims:
“Making a patty or a sausage from cells cultured outside the animal is challenging enough; imagine how difficult it is to create a whole-muscle steak.”
It has been several years now since the first news became public about a lab-grown hamburger. Researchers didn’t stop there. They continued to improve upon the process of growing meat ever since that moment the hamburger proved it was possible. To replicate the texture and structure of steak is on another level though. They hadn’t been able to accomplish that until now. Toubia acknowledges in a press release:
“The initial products are still relatively thin but the technology we developed marks a true breakthrough and a great leap forward in producing a cell-grown steak. The smell was great when we cooked it, exactly the same characteristic flavor as a conventional meat cut. It was a little bit chewy, same as meat. We saw and felt the fibers when we cut it with a knife. It’s close and it tastes good, but we have a bit more work to make sure the taste is 100% similar to conventional meat.”
To produce the steak, the company managed to find a nutrient combination that would encourage the extracted animal cells to grow into a tissue structure comparable to that found in an actual cow by using a bio-engineering platform co-developed with the Technion – Israel’s Institute of Technology.
They admit the taste and thickness need improvement. At the moment the steak is only 5 mm thick. They are tackling this problem with the help of Prof Shulamit Levenberg, an expert in tissue engineering, at Technion.
One steak takes between two to three weeks to grow and costs about $50. That price is very cheap considering that the first lab-grown beef burger in 2013 cost €250,000 (US $283,500).
“The cost would come down as the production process was moved from the lab to a scalable commercial facility.”
The company’s aim here is to reduce the environmental impact of beef production. Today’s industrial farming is increasingly under scrutiny for its ethical and environmental repercussions. Their product can help bridge the divide between people who are unwilling to give up meat entirely and the need to reduce global meat consumption in the fight against climate change. Lab-grown meats are a more sustainable alternative to animal-sourced meats.
“Today, over 90 percent of consumers do eat meat and we think the percentage of vegetarians will not grow significantly despite many launches of plant-based products.” – Toubia
With such a high percentage of the population eating meat, it is clear that most people do not want to change their diets very much and do not identify as vegan or vegetarian. Therefore, the option of greener meat alternatives is highly appealing.
This creation represents a benchmark in cellular meat production. It will be still another three to four years though before it becomes commercially available. There are no lab-based meat products of any kind on sale to the public yet, although an American company has recently claimed their chicken nuggets will soon be in a few restaurants.
“We are not against traditional agriculture. The main issue today is with intensive, factory farming facilities, which are very inefficient and very polluting and have lost the relationship to the animal. If you want to have a real impact on the environment, we have to make sure we solve the issue of production, and we grow meat in a more efficient, sustainable way, with no animal welfare issues and no antibiotics.” – Toubia
With solutions like these, the mass slaughter of innocent animals becomes unnecessary. It is a significant step forward for providing people with real meat without the huge environmental impact and welfare problems of intensive livestock production.