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biotech

New recipe will put cultivated meat in supermarkets

Producing meat steaks and hamburgers directly from animal cells is an expensive business but scientists in America have found a way to slash the cost by removing one ingredient.

Making slaughter-free meat has become possible thanks to some amazing innovation from the world of cell agriculture. And it has some major backers. In 2021, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ploughed $10 million into the first-ever government backed research institute dedicated to cellular agriculture at Tufts University. That investment is now paying off.

Because the Tufts University Center for Cellular Agriculture (TUCCA) today revealed how stem cells can produce fibroblast growth factor (FGF) – which triggers the growth of skeletal muscle cells found in steaks and hamburgers. Which is a big deal because until now the growth factor had to come from industrial suppliers, creating up to 90% of the cost of producing cultivated meat, but with this process the stem cells produce it themselves.

“What we did was engineer bovine muscle stem cells to produce these growth factors and turn on the signaling pathways themselves,” explains Andrew Stout, then lead researcher on the project, and now Director of Science at Tufts Cellular Agriculture Commercialization Lab. “While we significantly cut the cost of media, there is still some optimisation that needs to be done to make it industry-ready.”

Professor David Kaplan, the university’s renowned cultivated meat expert, and the person chosen to head up the newly created institute in 2021, was the first to welcome the breakthrough.

“I think advances like this will bring us much closer to seeing affordable cultivated meat in our local supermarkets within the next few years.”

Then it’s over to the public to decide if it has the appetite for the product. Speaking on the Inside Ideas podcast two years ago, Ahmed Khan, founder and editor of CellAgri, said that when it comes to the public, good communication is going to be everything.

“From studies done in the past – if you explain to the public the ‘why’ – from the environmental and sustainability aspects, that this requires less resources than conventional animal agriculture for the same products, as well as the potential public health implications of the clean and sterile environment of using cells directly, people can understand why. It’s all about that communication, and radical transparency to make sure that people understand their food system. Context is everything and with food it matters so much more.”

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Written By

Susan is the co-founder of Innovators Magazine and a consultant for OnePoint5Media. Susan is also a member of the UNFCCC-led Resilience Frontiers Nexus group and the Chair of the APOPO Foundation UK board.

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