May 18, 2022

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Cultured meat between differences and innovation

Since the first publication on cultured meat (also known as cultured meat, synthetic meat, synthetic meat or test tube meat) in 2008, the number of publications has increased significantly in recent years. a while ago, appetitean international research journal dealing with the cultural, social, psychological, sensory and physiological influences on the choice and intake of food and drink, has given space to Review Which takes into account the factors affecting consumer acceptance of cultured meat. News about cultured meat has spread and intensified since the Singapore Food Agency approved its sale chicken bitescuts of chicken meat obtained in the laboratory by an American start-up called Eat Just in December 2020.

Grown meats, plant products, and other alternatives

The Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that by 2050, the demand for meat will reach an unsustainable volume from traditional farm production. The food industry has researched and continues to search for technological innovations with the aim of meeting the nutritional needs of a growing population in the future, replacing meat and its derivatives with cultured meats or plant-based alternatives or with products derived from yeasts or other microorganisms.

Currently, mung beans and some mushrooms are the basis of alternatives vegetarian Meat and its derivatives. These foods are well accepted by vegetarians or health conscious people flex (Those who eat meat sparingly) It is also available for pets. From a nutritional point of view, the protein content is similar to that of meat, but the taste and texture are definitely not. So it appears that cultured meat is a sustainable alternative for consumers who want to be more responsible but don’t want to change the composition of their diet.

How is cultured meat obtained?

Cultured meat is obtained from the muscle cells of animals and grown in bioreactors under controlled conditions. A bioreactor is a fermenter-like vessel used to produce beer into which animal cells are introduced with a controlled culture medium (containing nutrients useful for cell growth and division) and controlled. Growth conditions, including sterility of the growing environment itself.

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Large-scale manufacturing still presents technical challenges to improving cell culture methodology, but according to current manufacturers (there are more than 800 companies and startups) part of the challenge has to do with regulatory and agency approval processes. Food control. The registration process may vary when it comes to applying for approval for a simple cultured beef burger (specified new food) or if the cultured meat has also undergone a process of genetic modification that improves its nutritional properties and therefore its effects on human health (it will fall under the category of GMOs).

The Dutch company Mosa Meat, founded by one of the pioneers in researching farmed meat, appears to be aiming for Singapore and Europe to launch its first products. No wonder Singapore, the world’s most innovative and multicultural city-state, was the first to approve artificial meat, despite complex procedures that could prove the safety of the products.

Artificial meat, potential advantages and disadvantages

perspective Reducing zoonotic diseasesThanks to reduced human-animal interactions, will other food agencies speed up defining their approval processes? And if this happens, will it be to the advantage of lobbyists or just inevitable and sustainable change? In his investigation book Artificial meat? No thank you!Gil Luno argues that the birth and evolution of artificial meat are a “convergence of contextual interests,” including the commodification of genetic engineering, the money of Silicon Valley millionaires, and the development of an effective altruistic philosophy, all included in the context of global warming and the biodiversity crisis. He also adds that California startup founders are just millennials seeking salvation in technology because they don’t have the ability to trace the cause of a problem to a solution. He also asserts that their work ethic is linked to religious ethics and to the movement bred by the philosopher Peter Singer, which makes efficacy ethical, and thus effective altruism “proposes, like an engineer, to account for the economic aspects of any philanthropy” reducing everything to an economic web with no significant social benefit that sends confusing messages And partly in order to make the product attractive to everyone.

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Lono goes on to say that in farmed meat companies they “do not show themselves as vegetarians” but only express their environmental commitment by conveying the promise to save the world, making those who buy them feel on the side of those who want a better world.

It is true that the potential advantages of artificial meat remain a matter of debate, but reducing research and technological innovation to just a matter of portfolio seems to be limiting. If we consider aspects related to greenhouse gas emissions, artificial meat may not have long-term benefits: methane (CH4) released by farms has a much lower half-life than carbon dioxide that can also be produced by bioreactors, but can be Traditional farm produce is profitable only if the demand for meat is reduced rather than increased. As it will surely come Less land use Bioreactors have more than those needed to raise and feed ruminants, with the potential to regenerate forests and biodiversity.

From an ethical standpoint, test tube meat is intended to use far fewer animals and produce cruelty-free meat, although some animals still have to be bred to harvest cells for in vitro production.

Improving the growth process

Despite all these aspects to be clarified, it is clear that as the years go by, traditional meat is expected to be replaced, but is the industry really ready for rapid and quantitative production? Cultivation protocols must be improved to make the product economically sustainable, ensuring customer satisfaction in terms of texture, flavor and variety. This is done by Bruno Cell, a Trentino startup with support from the Trentino Innovation Hub. The main objective of the startup is to improve the cell growth process to reduce costs and to make cultured meat an accessible resource.

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“Growth factors are estimated to account for about 90% of the production cost of the culture medium used to grow animal cells,” explains Lisa Cerrone, a nutritionist and expert in food innovation at Bruno Cell.

Bruno Cell cooperates with several universities so that, once methods for culturing cows and pigs cells have been improved, the creation of a final product can proceed. To obtain the different structures and shapes of meat with the flavor and texture we know, two methods can be followed: using scaffold and the bioprinting. Scaffolds are supporting structures in which cells can grow and allow the passage of culture medium containing nutrients to the cells, allowing to obtain a final product with a specific structure, for example a hamburger. Recently, the world of 3D printing has been approached, or specifically bioprintingwhich allows directly (instead of putting the material on scaffold to promote growth) to print cells in an alginate solution where they can then differentiate and form the desired structure. With this solution, for example, if we want to get the shape of a steak, we will have to use different ingredients, and therefore both muscle and fat cells that allow to give both the typical taste and structure that we know.