How can you eat meat while having a conversation with the cow you got the “meat” from?

If you read the title, 50% of you’re probably thinking this must be a joke, the other 50% of you are probably thinking why should I care? Well, you’re in the right place.

For the past couple of years I have been told you have to become vegetarian if you want to save the planet, but as you guessed the world is not gonna become vegetarian. I mean meat is just too good, it’s delicious.

A few months ago I was binge-watching TED talks (I know, who does that?) and other than learning some insightful quotes, I came across a TED talk from Mark Post that talked all about cellular agriculture. That’s when I got curious, maybe we don’t need to rely on the world becoming vegetarian. Instead of having people change their ways, we can bring change to them. — Check out the TED talk!

1,799 gallons of water are used to make 1 pound of beef. In America alone, 27.3 BILLION pounds are made each year. The total number of how much water is used to make beef each year can’t even be calculated by a calculator. As well, For every 100 pounds, we feed a cow, the cow only gives us 3 pounds back. Therefore, it is only 3% efficient. I don’t know where in the world we would accept a 3% efficient technology. Let me put it in terms of price, a farmer pays $291 feeding each cow to get $9 worth of protein. I know it’s ridiculous.

Believe it or not there is a solution that can use 95% less water, is 97% more efficient, has 100% of the nutrients, and uses 95% fewer greenhouse gases. Oh and obviously doesn’t use an animal. I bet you’re probably wondering, what the hell is that, and why haven’t I heard of it. Well, it’s drumroll please ……. Cellular Agriculture.

To understand cellular agriculture, we need to first understand how biologically meat is made. It all starts with one cell that is called a myoblast, these cells have the potential of becoming muscle tissue but they aren’t yet, because of the extracellular matrix these cells proliferate and produce more cells. Now there are a ton, I mean a ton of factors that help the cells to proliferate such as proteins, FGF, etc. The animal’s body provides the cells with the “factors” to proliferate. Next, we start fusing these cells (myogenesis). Myogenesis creates the formation of myotubes. Tissue is a bunch of myotubes together.

Essentially, as you can see below, it starts with one cell, a myoblast, and we are putting it through a biological incubator, the cow. The cow provides all the factors the cell needs to proliferate and make more cells. Eventually, we get muscle tissue. Which is where we then get our meat.

Cows are just food machines, however, they were not made to produce food. They were made to reproduce and live.

So why don’t we create machines that are optimized for the process of making muscle tissue? So instead of having a 3% efficient technology, we can have a 100% efficient technology.

This is cultured meat, it starts with a myoblast which then gets put in a biological incubator which makes muscle tissue in the end.

How does it work?

First, a piece of tissue (biopsy) is extracted from the animal (it is completely harmless), and then it will be filtered to isolate the cell for it to proliferate by putting the cell in a medium. The medium gives the cells the factors it needs to proliferate (tricking it into believing it is in the animal). For the cells to be tricked a scaffold is used.

A scaffold is a fake extracellular matrix (ECM), for cells to replicate and survive an ECM is needed. Therefore how do we make a fake ECM? In a natural ECM, collagen microspheres are used, by using collagen microspheres as the material of the scaffold we can easily trick the cells.

The cells then naturally replicate as they would in the body, growing into something that looks more and more like food. This happens because of a serum (medium) that is extracted from the animal and is used to fuse the cells (make it more meat-like). After a couple of weeks of the cells proliferating the cells are ready to be formed and shaped to whatever you want. I mean you would obviously want it to be shaped to a hamburger, duh.

There you have it, a juicy hamburger.

But wait, you might be wondering how does the meat even taste like meat. Does it have that juicy and rich taste we are all looking for?

Now I never said the process was simple. The more the environment the cells grow in is like an animal, the more it will be like the delicious beef we all love. Fats are added to the end of the process. As well, researchers have found that by adding things such as myoglobin, it gives the meat more of the beefy colour and allows it to be even richer.

I am gonna be straight up honest with you all. Mark Post, the creator of the first lab-grown hamburger, made that burger for approximately $300,000. But, (there is always a but) as of today they got the price down to $10. Let that sink in.

In the next couple of years, Mark Post plans to produce enough meat to feed over 10,000 people.

Now to make you fall even more in love with cultured meat. Not that I intend to make you fall in love with it 😉, lab-grown meat can eliminate the possibility of dangerous bacteria such as E.coli.

To conclude, with a growing meat population farm animals just won’t do. Lab-grown meat uses less water, emits fewer greenhouse gases, and is much more efficient. It starts with a myoblast, which is then put in a medium to proliferate and finally, fused through a serum to create meat. To make a sustainable difference, we have to change the unsustainable things.

Thanks for reading ❤️, let me know what you think through sending me an email — or DM me on my social media.

Instagram — @alisha.arora56

Twitter — @alishaarora_

15 yo futurist, change maker and innovator at The Knowledge Society.