Will lab-grown meat ever compete with real meat? We ask the expert | Life and style
There are a lot of complicated words for my diet – flexitarian, reducing, carnesparsien (from carne meaning meat, and eating it little, because there is no such thing as using Latin to give an inheritance to something composed online). I’m not the only one: a third of Britons have reduced their meat consumption due to concerns about industrial agriculture. “Lab-grown meat” will soon be launching into this space, promising to take the slaughter and environmental exploitation of your steak out. But how does it work? And can he deliver? I talked to Benjamina Bollag, founder of the laboratory bacon producer Superior steaks.
Hi Benjamina! So you bring home the bacon …
And the pork belly! As far as I know, we are the only producer of cultivated pork belly.
Presumably, you also make steaks?
Actually no. But a friend found the name and it stuck.
Hey, names matter. Tofurky, way, seitan. PPeople underestimate the role of puns in a sustainable lifestyle. So how does lab-grown meat actually work?
We take a few high-quality cells from a pig and feed those cells with nutrients, making them bigger in kilograms, muscle, and fat, which we then work into into the shape of the final product.
Sounds … Frankenstein-y. How did you get into this?
I have a background in chemical engineering and was concerned about the impact of agriculture on the environment and the health of people. In the United States, there are as many antibiotics used on pigs as they are on humans. This can lead to antibiotic resistance, and it is serious.
But haven’t we been here before? Cultivatecatching fish was supposed to relieve the pressure on the wild fish. But we have simply eaten more fish, and our oceans and rivers remain depleted. Couldn’t the same happen with bacon?
I believe we can get to the point where people go to the supermarket and find cultured meat that tastes, smells, looks and costs exactly the same, so they couldn’t tell it apart when of a blind taste test. Why choose conventional meat then?
For a dramatic effect, perhaps? Like when Ozzy Osbourne a little bat. But can laboratory-grown meat really get an identical result taste and texture?
Some herbal products already have it, along with sausages and nuggets. But it’s more delicate with bacon and pork belly.
Herbal products? All of these alternatives to meat can be confusing. There is the plant-based “meat”, which emulates meat using vegetable protein.. Then laboratory grown meat, which starts with meat cells and can use plant nutrients, but is always animal product.
There’s also the hybrid meat, which we’re working on – it mixes cultivated and plant-based meat to help with the price.
Herbal ingredients are cheaper than growing cells, gotcha. What about other diets, say, kosher or halal?
It’s a big debate. We have spoken to several rabbis about this, all with conflicting opinions. We will continue to listen and see.
You have been working on your products for four years. Few journalists have tried a sample of laboratory-grown meat and those who do not have to like. None of this is on sale except for a few nuggets in Singapore. So, the big question: when will the lab meat be ready?
I can not tell. Our plan is to work with restaurants first, then supermarkets. But that will largely be due to regulatory issues rather than the product. Consumer interest is really encouraging, as is the growing industry. The UK is doing an incredible job with alternative proteins.