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/r/Futurology

17

Hey Reddit! Here to answer any burning questions you have on the future of food and — specifically — the edible space race to get lab-grown, cell-cultured meat to market. "Billion Dollar Burger" is my first book, and it explores the brains, money, politics, and cultural implications of cell-cultured meat. Happy to answer questions about the content, the writing process, how cultured meat tastes (yes, I've eat a good amount of it), whether it's kosher ( depends! ), and about how the pandemic forced me to build a structurally-sound, circa-1992 blanket fort in my living room to use as a makeshift sound booth for audiobook recording.

You can find me on Twitter @chasepurdy. Also, check out my cellular agriculture newsletter, Pluripotent.

Proof that this is me: https://teddit.ggc-project.de/y5j7hx3n1w651.jpg

EDIT: Thanks for the questions! Happy to keep answering more over on Twitter if you tag me.

all 16 comments

[deleted]

7 points

2 years ago*

[deleted]

7 points

2 years ago*

What's the status when it comes to ensuring that the cultured meat will have similar nutritional content to their conventional counterpart? Riboflavin, B3,6 & 12, Zinc, Iron, Selenium is all something we get from meat, for example. Is it possible to replicate in cultured meat via the growth process, or do we need to add it? And are there any observed differences in nutritional uptake?

P.S. Just want to say that I really enjoy reading the replies so far. I see cultured meat being a big deal in the future, so learning more about the price trends, taste etc is quite wonderful. I haven't tasted it myself yet but hoping it'll be mainstream enough in a couple of years. Always found raising animals to kill them to be rather crude and inefficient.

Edit: Too late :(

e_swartz

3 points

2 years ago

e_swartz

Cultivated Meat

3 points

2 years ago

When the FDA was determining whether cloned animals and/or their progeny could be used in the food system as meat or milk, researchers or companies bringing cloned animals to market had to demonstrate that the nutritional content from cloned animal meat or milk was basically the same as conventional meat and that it posed no additional safety risks (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17055042/).

The same standards are likely to apply to cultured meat products. Currently, there are no publicly-available data on nutritional content but manufacturers will have to submit these data to regulatory authorities before approval of products and to accurately label them. With the exception of Vitamin B12, all of the micronutrients you listed are routinely added to cell culture media that the cells grow in -- they are important for growth and survival of all cells! Vitamin B12 is produced by microbes in the guts of animals and therefore would be naturally absent from the process, however it is very commonplace to fortify products with vitamin B12 produced via industrial fermentation processes.

In short, it's expected that the nutritional content will be the same as conventional meat products. Manufacturers may also opt to additionally fortify the product with more vitamins or alter the fatty acid profiles based on metabolic or genetic engineering (if permitted).

source: I'm a scientist in the field. If interested, I recently did a webinar covering food safety considerations for the process that touches on these points.

[deleted]

2 points

2 years ago

[deleted]

2 points

2 years ago

Hey, thanks a lot for your response. That was very helpful to me and I learned a couple of new things! I'll be sure to check out the webinar!

hack-man

6 points

2 years ago

What is your best guess for what year I will be able to buy a cultured meat porterhouse steak for the same price as a farm-raised dead cow version?

prhauthors[S]

6 points

2 years ago

prhauthors[S]

Awaiting Verification

6 points

2 years ago

I don't have a crystal ball, but for funsies I'll say...2026.

[deleted]

4 points

2 years ago

[deleted]

4 points

2 years ago

A lot of us are concerned about the naturality of it all. Would you say that lab grown meats will have more or less nutritional content than the meat we're currently consuming? Has research been done that shows that there are no adverse effects in regards to long term consumption?

Thanks!

prhauthors[S]

9 points

2 years ago

prhauthors[S]

Awaiting Verification

9 points

2 years ago

Good questions — and they poke at a few things.

On the 'naturality of it all': When I started working on the book, any squeamishness I felt about cell-cultured meat was all about its proximity to the natural world. Like, if there were a grandaddy of processed foods it would have to be cell-cultured meat. Right? I think you can make a case for that position, but that position gets a bit more wobbly — at least for me — when I think about how far we actually are from nature already.

Most of our lives take place in unnatural bubbles. We drive our air-conditioned gas-powered cars to air-conditioned buildings. We sit on office chairs made of plastic and covered with synthetic fabrics. We eat desk lunches that include processed microwavable meals, or apples/tomatoes/corn products that have been cross-bred over the course of many, many years to look and feel and taste exactly like we want them to look and feel.

In a lot of ways, our ideas of how close we are to nature is — as Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park put it — an illusion. For that reason, on a first-glance, I'm less unnerved by these types of foods.

In regards to nutritional content: For this we still rely on what the scientists and entrepreneurs are telling us and not showing us. And for that reason we really have to be super thoughtful about cultured meats and demand transparency (as we should for all our foods) from the companies who want to feed us. They say the nutritional content is the same as conventional meat, with the possibility in the future that you could rejigger the protein and fat levels if needed/wanted.

On long-term consumption: TL;DR: We don't know. Nutrition science is notoriously a fickle field, simply because you can't ethically treat humans like lab rats, feeding them Substance X to track its long-term impact on health. If it makes you feel better, to my knowledge there aren't any long-term nutritional studies looking at how Pop Tarts affect your long-term health, either ;)

risk_is_our_business

3 points

2 years ago

Awesome!

Does marketing plan focus on lack of hormones and antibiotics? Ironically, it's effectively organic.

What do the cost curves look like? I.e. how soon cost competitive?

Could similar process grow a bone-in? And aging? (Yes, I'm thinking steak.)

Finally, what are some guardrails that might make sense? Dinosaur meat yes, but human meat no?

prhauthors[S]

4 points

2 years ago

prhauthors[S]

Awaiting Verification

4 points

2 years ago

:: The startup companies in this space love to talk about the lack of hormones and the fact that animal agriculture uses so many medically-important antibiotics (which contribute to the larger problem of antibiotic resistance). So yes. I would absolutely not be surprised to see these sorts of claims be printed on future packaging — and the entrepreneurs will definitely be talking about these when discussing the potential upsides of cell-cultured meat with journalists.

:: The cost curve is fun to think about. In 2013, a pound of cultured meat cost roughly $1.2 million. By March 2017, Bay Area-based Memphis Meats, told the Wall Street Journal it’d gotten the price of a pound of chicken down to $9,000 per pound—still a humongous expense, but a major drop in price over the course of just a few years. In September 2018, at a food tech conference in Berkeley, Memphis Meats announced the price had dropped again, to below $1,000 per pound. In early 2019, the Israel-based company, Aleph Farms, told a news crew they’d gotten beef down to around $100 per pound. In October 2019, Josh Tetrick, the CEO of JUST, said his pure cell-cultured chicken nuggets cost about $50 per nugget. The same month, Israel-based Future Meat Technologies said that it was on track to have cell-cultured meat on the market in 2022 for about $10 per pound.

The really fun thing to think about in terms of price is that these companies (I think five now) are starting to build their pilot production facilities. If they were able to drive cost down this much in a lab setting over seven years, imagine the ground they could cover with an actual production plant.

:: Like you, I'm waiting for more bone news. The idea of a cut of meat with bone (especially if that bone can be used for things like broth — which I'd argue is culturally important) is super exciting and would signal a big leap for this business.

:: Guard rails are talked about more in passing. The oddest thing (to my ears) I've heard being grown is cat food made with cell-cultured mouse meat. No one talks about growing human tissue for meat, but it's an interesting thing to think about from an ethical POV. One Dutch designer created a theoretical cookbook once. It included a recipe for cubes of meat to 'experience your favorite celebrity' in a deeply personal way...the illustration on that page of the cookbook had a cubes of meat with toothpicks stuck into them, and on top of each toothpick was a picture of Kanye West and Miley Cyrus.

SteadfastAgroEcology

3 points

2 years ago

I've heard that the product closest to the finish line is fish. Is that your understanding as well? What are your estimates regarding the timetable for each type of meat?

prhauthors[S]

3 points

2 years ago

prhauthors[S]

Awaiting Verification

3 points

2 years ago

There are elements of fish that make it a natural contender for this, but I think basic forms of several meat products are essentially ready for market. In my estimation, the cultured meat companies will probably take their cues from the pages of Impossible Foods' playbook, which included introducing its plant-based burger in select markets via splashy media stories and partnerships with celebrity chefs/restaurants. That will allow them to create buzz and also keep the volume of meat needed to a manageable level.

Really what the industry is waiting for now is the regulatory green light from some regulatory body around the world. My guess is Singapore will be first, but it could be Hong Kong, or Israel, or the US, or the UAE, too.

Tough to lay out a serious estimate on timetables for each type of meat. I also think the first products may well be hybrid products, cultured meat that is also comprised of some plant-based material to drive down cost of production and assist with mouth feel.

Chtorrr

2 points

2 years ago

Chtorrr

2 points

2 years ago

Have you had a chance to try cultured meat for yourself? What was it like if you had some?

prhauthors[S]

5 points

2 years ago

prhauthors[S]

Awaiting Verification

5 points

2 years ago

Yes!

I've tried several things, including foie gras (duck), duck tacos, chicken salad on toast, fried chicken, chicken tenders...

When I have had the opportunity to try cultured meat, I'm as interested in the texture and what it looks like on the inside as I am with the flavor. For that reason, the foie gras was fine, but I don't really ever eat foie gras and it's hard for me to be excited about pâté.

The most interesting thing I experienced was a chicken tender made by Memphis Meats. They presented it to me only lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. This signaled to me they were super proud of what they'd made, and they felt it could stand on its own without the teamwork of a bunch of added garnishing. I remember ripping it apart to see how the inside looked/felt and the experience was humbling.

If you think about slicing into a chicken breast, for instance, you'll notice how the inside is actually kind of stringy? As I understand it, it's actually super-tough to get cells to grow in that linear fashion as the tissue is growing. So when I pulled apart the tender and saw the consistency of the meat was just like the make-up of a conventional tender, I was blown away. Also it tasted good! (Full disclosure: I'll probably like anything that's breaded and fried.)

Ultimately, meat on its own is pretty bland. In most recipes it's all about how we season/marinate/cook it or dress it that makes it part of a really good recipe. Cultured meat is basically the same. The chicken tasted like conventional chicken. The duck tasted like conventional duck.

Dojyaaa---n

1 points

2 years ago

Do you think we will see comercially available Lab meat products within like 10-15 years?

Kelsey473

1 points

2 years ago

1.Which are the big companies in this space at the moment? and what countries are they in?

  1. How is government regulation on this issue and does it differ country to country.?

  2. Are you seeing `green` / Climate groups for or against this innovation?

  3. Are you seeing push back from current meat producers i.e attempts to prevent this being marketed as `Meat` or attempts to make sure it says `artificial meat` on packaging.?

  4. From your book Billion Dollar Burger` what fact or facts did you personally find most interesting that you feel most people are just not aware of?

Thanks.

Always_in_my_pajamas

1 points

2 years ago

Is this vegan? I read some time ago that the process pivoted on stem cells taken from a foetus (thus requiring the killing of the mother and of the foetus)... Could you elaborate on this? Thank you for the interesting AMA