Meatless Meats

In-vitro production and current challenges

Abstract: Cellular agriculture is collecting stem cells and growing these cells in growth mediums and bioreactor tanks to produce meat, dairy, eggs, and more. With ongoing challenges with water scarcity and greenhouse gas emissions, cellular agriculture can enhance the efficiency and ethics of producing meat products. Great strides in this field enable the future of food to be lab-grown. This paper covers how cellular agriculture works, the consequences of in-vitro production, and current challenges.

1.0 Challenges of raising livestock

2.0 Introduction to cellular agriculture

2.1 Starter cells

2.2 Myogenesis: cell lines, growth media, scaffolds, bioreactor tanks

3.0 Acellular production

3.1 Dairy products

3.2 Recombinant DNA

3.3 Milk without cows and cheese without animals

4.0 Advantages of cellular agriculture products

4.1 Less greenhouse gas emissions, animal welfare, human health, and world hunger

5.0 Challenges of in-vitro meat

5.1 Fetal Bovine Serum

5.2 Affordability

5.3 Scaffolds

5.4 Consumer acceptance, from lab to market

6.0 Conclusion

1.0 Challenges With Raising Livestock

Raising livestock depletes water resources. Millions of people do not have access to clean drinking water, yet we use 1,799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef.

This graph represents places where water scarcity is an issue. Cellular agriculture products use 94% less water, and dairy products only require 99% less water.

Raising livestock contributes 14.5% of all greenhouse gases. Raising livestock emits more GHG than all cars, trucks, boats, planes, etc.

More than 90% of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared to raise livestock, in turn endangering animal and plant species and biodiversity.

Today, there are more than 7 billion people on the planet. 821 million people do not have access to food; 1 in 9. World hunger is increasing. Worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to clean drinkable water.

2.0 Introducing Cellular Agriculture

Cellular agriculture is growing cells in labs that are identical to how cells thrive in host animals. In-vitro technology enables cells to have nutrients and sugars to proliferate and differentiate. Cellular agriculture can grow products from poultry, ice cream, and seafood to silk and even functioning human organs!

The first lab-grown poultry
Perfect Day’s microflora derived ice cream
BlueNalue’s cell-based yellow amberjack

There are two types of cellular agriculture, cellular and acellular. Cellular agriculture is using live cells to create products like meat and leather. Acellular agriculture uses non-living cells to create animal-derived products like casein or vanillin. The process of cultured meat is collecting cell samples, submerging the cell lines in a growth medium to proliferate, and finally put into a bioreactor tank to differentiate.

The process of cellular agriculture

There are numerous benefits of cultured meat, but there are also hurdles. FBS, price points, scaffolds, and consumer acceptances prevent cellular agriculture products from appearing in local grocery stores.

Cultured meat begins with starter cells, which undergo a process called myogenesis that creates muscle fibers.

Stem cells

To get the cell sample, animals go through a non-invasive process, such as obtaining a skin sample. Stem cells are beneficial in this process. There are two kinds of stem cells, pluripotent and multipotent. Pluripotent stem cells can become any cell type. They differentiate and can divide indefinitely. Multipotent stem cells are adult stem cells which means they cannot become different kinds of cells.

There are two specific cell types for in-vitro production: embryonic stem cells, which can become any cell type, and myosatellite stem cells, which are adult stem cells and cannot become different types of cells. Myosatellite cells come from the muscle of an animal and can only become animal muscle.

Once these stem cells are collected, they undergo myogenesis.

Myogenesis is the process of creating muscle fibers from the original cell sample. The starter cells become myoblasts, myotubes, and finally myofibers.

Growth media

The first process is creating myoblasts. These primary cell types turn into myoblasts, which are muscle cells. We do this by putting the cells in a culture medium. A culture medium provides the cells everything they need to grow and proliferate. The media essentially “feeds” the cells with the necessary nutrients and sugars and ultimately creates myoblasts.

A challenge with the growth medium today is the growth serum, Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS), which is baby cow blood. As cellular agriculture aims to get animals out of the food picture, FBS defeats the purpose and is unethical. It is also expensive and is not consistent.

Myoblasts then form myotubes (the beginning of the muscle tissue) with the help of scaffolds. Scaffolds are crucial for the cells to grow into a more concrete form. Currently, they are like culture soup, but with scaffolds, they begin to form a structure.

Collagen microspheres

Depending on differing methods, the scaffolds have collagen microspheres or meshworks that allow the myoblasts to grow on them. Beyond taste, scaffolds must structure the cells to result in complex meat structures like steak. Researchers are working on creating a scaffold that can improve cell-based meat products to have the same appearance and mouthfeel as ‘traditional’ meat products.

Finally, the myotubes are put into bioreactor tanks where large quantities of myofibers are created. Bioreactor tanks are large machines that encourage the growth and differentiation of cell lines to cultured meat. It is a mechanism that holds the growth mediums and scaffolds and creates the meat that can be harvested. Bioreactor tanks resemble beer brewery tanks. The problem with bioreactor tanks is scaling up these machines; current research is investigating using traditional bioreactor tanks for cultured meat.

The final product can be collected, cooked, or eaten raw (depending on the meat type) and consumed!

3.0 Acellular Production

Acellular agriculture is the production of using non-living cells to create cheese, ice cream, yogurts, and other dairy products and byproducts.

Scientists perform different processes to produce dairy products to create some of our favorite dairy foods. We do this with genetic engineering microflora, which consists of yeast and bacteria cells.

To create milk we take a sample of the protein-producing gene from a cow and introduce that DNA fragment into a yeast or bacteria cell. The differently sourced bacteria or yeast cell is called recombinant DNA.

The recombinant DNA duplicates to form more recombinant DNA with the same genetic code for that specific gene. Finally, the cells are put into bioreactor tanks to produce biomasses of pure milk proteins.

To create milk we need to genetically engineer microflora, which includes yeast and bacteria. We need to “clone” a gene by snipping a DNA sequence with an enzyme and place it into the plasmid of a cell, which is recombinant DNA. to create cheese, the cells undergo the same process but with the beta-casein gene.

We can consume some of our favorite foods, such as milk, yogurt, ice cream, and even mac n’ cheese, without harming animals in the process.

To learn more about genetically engineering yeast and bacteria and companies involved in this novel field, check out my article here. Perfect Day is leading the way for dairy without animals.

4.0 Beneficial Impacts

Advantages of cellular agriculture products range from mitigating GHG, animal welfare, human health, and feeding our growing population.

Outlines three main areas where cellular agriculture can have a profound impact: human health, biodiversity, and animal welfare.

Also, cellular agriculture can feed our growing population. By 2050, there will be 11 billion people, and we need to transform the meat industry to become more sustainable. Every year, 1.2 million people die from unclean water. However, 1,799 gallons of water produces 1 pound of beef. Cellular agriculture requires a fraction of these inputs.

5.0 Challenges Of In-Vitro Meat

An overall challenge is the affordability of cell-based products. Mosa Meets was the first to create a lab-grown hamburger in 2013 that cost $300,000. Cell-based products have come a long way but need to go a lot farther to appear in grocery stores.

Here is a video exploring the challenges with FBS, scaffolds, and bioreactors, and consumer acceptance:

6.0 Conclusion

Cellular agriculture has the potential to improve many of the issues with raising livestock and dairy collection. Cell samples → growth medium → scaffolds → bioreactor tanks is a more sustainable way to feed the growing population.

Cellular agriculture would prevent 14.5% of greenhouse gases while providing a more ethical system for animal-derived products. However, an overarching problem is it needs to be feasible. We have come a long way from a $300,000 lab-grown burger patty, but other factors prevent in-vitro products from appearing in grocery stores. The growth serum uses baby cow blood, scaffolds must replicate complex meat structures, and bioreactor tanks need to be scaled-up.

Stay posted for more on how to overcome these issues :) All in all, cellular agriculture is disrupting the food industry and can seriously impact food security issues.

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