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In vitro meat

In vitro meat is meat that is manufactured in a laboratory. It is produced by taking stem cells out of muscle cells from the living animal and multiplying them in a nutrient solution. The cells grow to muscle cells and if applicable to muscle fibers later. The method of producing in vitro meat is intended to provide an alternative to meat production by (industrial) animal husbandry without killing animals. Additionally, there is research on further in vitro products as for example fish meat, eggs and leather.

Aim and innovation

In vitro meat is supposed to become a way out of the discrepancy between the increasing meat consumption worldwide [1] and the high resource requirements of the conventional meat production and the rising awareness of the population on issues of animal welfare on the other side. As opposed to meat substitutes which are based on plant products and partly egg and / or milk (see innovation “meat substitutes”), in vitro meat is based on “real” meat. It is produced by taking and cultivating cells - similar to regenerative medicine - which are multiplying on a growth medium or growth factors in a bioreactor.[2] Producing cell-based meat products could use considerably less water and land resources and also cause notably less GHG emissions than in vivo meat production according to first estimations.[3][4]

 

Examples

companies which are researching on in vitro meat production commercially: SuperMeat, Memphis Meats, Hampton Creek, Finless Foods

Category

processing (technology)

Actors

science, processing, consumers

Development and current dynamics

Currently, scientists as well as companies worldwide foster research and development of in vitro meat. In 2013 the first burger based on in vitro meat was presented. However, this burger caused immense production costs of 330.000 US-Dollar. By now companies manufacture products with considerably less costs and there are prognoses of marketable in vitro meat in 2020.[6] So far the development is centered especially in the USA, the Netherlands and Israel. In Germany, however, only Wiesenhof is participating in the research on in vitro meat; the company supports the Israeli start-up SuperMeat.[7] Problems and constraints are among other things, the provision of the growth medium, as it is normally taken from calf serum. This procedure is not only expensive, it is also critically discussed in terms of the self-defined objective to produce meat without animal suffering. Alternative approaches to produce the growth medium is the synthetical production based on fungi and yeast.[8]

 

Sustainability potential

Ecological

  • biodiversity (indirect)   
  • soil (indirect)   
  • water (indirect)   
  • climate (indirect)   
  • resource efficiency in production and consumption

Economic

  • increase of food security

Social

  • health: Access to healthy food
  • animal welfare

Risks / Disadvantages

In vitro meat is meat that is manufactured in a laboratory. It is produced by taking stem cells out of muscle cells from the living animal and multiplying them in a nutrient solution. The cells grow to muscle cells and if applicable to muscle fibers later. The method of producing in vitro meat is intended to provide an alternative to meat production by (industrial) animal husbandry without killing animals. Additionally, there is research on further in vitro products as for example fish meat, eggs and leather.

 

Conclusion

In vitro meat is meat that is produced in laboratories. In this way (if development of current techniques proceed) meat can be produced without killing animals. In vitro meat has a high ecological sustainability potential due to the implicit reduction of animal husbandry. However, it will probably not change lifestyles, consumers‘ behavior or awareness, as it is still a meat product. According to surveys, social acceptance is still low, but it is likely that in vitro meat, as a cheap meat alternative, will be often consumed once it is on the market.

 


[1] Weltagrarbericht (2018): Fleisch und Futtermittel. Web, 02.05.2018. https://www.weltagrarbericht.de/themen-des-weltagrarberichts/fleisch-und-futtermittel.html

[2] Wissenschaftliche Dienste des Deutschen Bundestags (2018): In-vitro-Fleisch. Web, 02.05.2018. https://www.bundestag.de/blob/546674/6c7e1354dd8e7ba622588c1ed1949947/wd-5-009-18-pdf-data.pdf

[3]Tumisto et al. (2015): Environmental impacts of cultured meat: alternative production scenarios. Web, 22.10.2018. core.ac.uk/download/pdf/38629617.pdf

[4]Hinzmann, M. (2018): Die Wahrnehmung von In-Vitro-Fleisch in Deutschland. PolRess 2 – Kurzanalyse, Ecologic Institut.

[5]Böhm et al. (2017): In-Vitro-Fleisch: Eine technische Vision zur Lösung der Probleme der heutigen Fleischproduktion und des Fleischkonsums? Institut für Technikfolgenabschätzung und Systemanalyse (Hg.). Web, 02.05.2018. http://www.itas.kit.edu/pub/v/2017/boua17b.pdf

[6] Albert Schweitzer Stiftung für unsere Mitwelt (2017): Fleisch aus Zellkulturen: ein Überblick. Web, 01.10.2018, albert-schweitzer-stiftung.de/aktuell/fleisch-aus-zellkulturen

[7]Wissenschaftliche Dienste des Deutschen Bundestags (2018): In-vitro-Fleisch. Web, 01.10.2018.  www.bundestag.de/blob/546674/6c7e1354dd8e7ba622588c1ed1949947/wd-5-009-18-pdf-data.pdf

[8]Böhm at al. (2017)