Cultured meat from Dutch soil in Asian dumplings
No grazing cows in the meadow, but petri dishes, pipettes and measuring cups. If it is up to the Dutch company Meatable, meat will soon come from a factory. In 2024, dumplings and sausages from the cultured meat producer must be for sale in restaurants in Singapore, a year later it must be in supermarkets.
It will be for the rich. For the time being, cultured meat cannot yet compete with real meat in terms of price, but that will change. It is more climate-friendly, provided it is grown with green electricity.
In 2013, the first cultured meat hamburger was presented to worldwide interest. A Dutch invention by Mark Post, professor of physiology at Maastricht University. The burger consisted of billions of cells grown in a lab from cow stem cells.
Post founded Mosa Meat in 2016, a spin-off from the university. The first cultured meat was expected to hit the market in 2022. Investors, including the government and film actor Leonardo DiCaprio, invested millions in the company, but the meat is not yet available.
When that will be the case is unclear. Post refers to the press spokespersons, but questions are not immediately answered. The problem is in the regulations, he said in a 2021 interview with Change Inc.
"In the course of this year we will submit our product to the European Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, the EFSA. It will then take at least another year and a half until they have analyzed whether it is safe enough. I expect that the citizen will be the first to be introduced on a small scale in restaurants for sale."
A burger from the lab? In the video below you can see how cultured meat is made:
A burger from the lab? This is how cultured meat is made
Around seventy companies worldwide are now working on cultured meat. The fact that Post's Dutch competitor Meatable is now earlier has to do with regulations. Cultured meat is still banned in Europe; Singapore is the only country in the world that allows the sale.
ESCO Aster, located in the Asian city state, is currently the only company that is allowed to make cultured meat by the Singaporean government. Meatable therefore works closely with this company, according to the Delft start-up.
Pig stem cell
The dumplings and sausages are made from pork. So a real pig is needed. Meatble extracts tissue (one stem cell) from the umbilical cord of a newborn pig, which is multiplied millions of times in a laboratory. Then proteins, flavorings and colorings are added.
"In Singapore we expect the licensing process to take about a year, in Europe it takes two to four years," Krijn de Nood, director of Meatable, told RTL Nieuws.
The House of Representatives wants a tasting
If it is up to the House of Representatives, we can get acquainted with the taste earlier. European permission is required for sale, but government parties D66 and VVD submitted a motion this spring to enable tastings for cultured meat.
"With increasing prosperity and increasing world population, you see that the price of meat continues to rise, but everyone also sees the negative side. Climate change and animal suffering. We think we can make the same product without the negative side effects. Because people do not stop eating meat ,” says De Nood.
The world population that wants to eat cultured meat will have to pay for it for the time being. The lab burger that Post presented in 2013 cost 250,000 euros.
Costs have since come down, but chicken nuggets sold by American cultured meat producer Eat Just through the Singapore restaurant 1880 under the name Good Meat Cultured Chicken cost about $23 per serving. You can eat your fill at the local KFC.
The company cannot yet say how much Meatable's dumplings and sausages will cost. Questions about the amount of energy it costs and how many laboratories are needed to replace a barn full of pigs are also not answered. "We are still in the start-up phase," says the spokesperson.
"The technology is still developing and both as a company and as an industry we are investigating the best and most efficient way of producing. What the consumption is during this phase would not paint a realistic picture of the consumption in the factory."
Cultured meat can be beneficial for the climate. The environmental impact can decrease enormously, according to research agency CE Delft last year in a study that used data from fifteen companies in the cultured meat sector.
A lot of heat and energy is needed to grow cultured meat, says researcher Pelle Sinke. "Because bioreactors are used. There is no body of an animal that produces natural heat for growth. But if green electricity is used, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced enormously."
With mixed electricity, as it still comes from the socket, cultured meat is more damaging to the climate than chicken or pork. This is different with beef, because the environmental impact of beef is two to three times greater.
Cultured meat requires no less than 95 percent less land area and 78 percent less water. Sinke: "Most of the land surface and groundwater is used for growing crops that the animals eat. And importantly, because there is no manure, nitrogen emissions and the amount of ammonia decrease."
The research was commissioned by the Flemish animal rights organization Gaia and The Good Food Institute, but the research agency emphasizes that it concerns independent research. The scientists are now working on a follow-up.
CE Delft also looked at the costs . At the moment, a piece of cultured meat is still very expensive, but in 2030 it could cost the same as a normal steak or pork piece. Cost savings of 75 percent are possible.
Then the production costs should drop considerably. Culture medium ingredients such as recombinant proteins and specialist equipment such as perfusion reactors must become cheaper. And investors have to settle for a lower return on investment than with purely commercial investments, concludes CE Delft.
Sinke: "These are theoretical calculation models. There is not yet a facility in the world that grows cultured meat on a large scale, so we had to work with scenarios."
Meatable also thinks that the price of cultured meat will fall in the long term, if it is produced on a large scale.
"In order to make the intended impact, it is extremely important that our meat is available and affordable for everyone. In the long term, it will therefore have at least the same price range as regular meat. We can only have a positive influence on climate change if people become aware of our product can afford," the company said.