The transformation from farm-to-table into lab-to-table has already begun, with many startups delving into cellular agriculture. This entails growing foods in large bioreactors that utilize specialized microorganisms to generate food or quite literally growing food cell by cell.
Within the next few decades, farming and agriculture as we know it could be entirely upended, morphing from a sector that heavily relied on land and animals into an industry that could be contained within a laboratory.
While there currently aren’t any cell-based meats available in the supermarket, one startup, Memphis Meats, recently announced a Series B funding round of $161 million.
“We are providing compelling and delicious choices by producing real meat from animal cells, its natural building blocks,” Memphis Meats co-founder and CEO Uma Valeti said in a January statement. “Cell-based meat is poised to dramatically expand humanity’s capacity to feed a growing global population while preserving our culinary traditions and protecting our planet.”
Would you eat a steak that wasn’t from a real cow?
Amid unpredictability surrounding health, animal well-being, and climate change, the one thing that seems inevitable is the need for a food system that increasingly incorporates technology and limits waste.
But what will that look like on the plate? Here’s a sampling of products that will be among the first to test the viability of the lab-to-table pipeline.
I’m not talking about Impossible Burgers here — nothing about this is plant-based. Producing cultured meat is the process of growing muscle cells outside of the animal’s body. You still need an animal to start — say, a cow — to harvest stem cells from. This can be done using anesthesia on live animals during a biopsy.
In animals, these cells would multiply in response to stress or injury to regrow muscle tissue. The same process is used to make cultured meat — except it’s carried out in a lab.