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Cultured meat has undergone exponential growth in terms of funding, number and breadth of people working on it and in number of startups trying to commercialise the technology. There are currently more than 50 companies active in this area and they receive ample private funding. We are likely not at the top of the ‘hype’ yet. In spite of the interest and efforts, it may still take a couple of years before we see the first products on the market. There are important hurdles to be taken, such as scaling up, making products cost-effective, setting up a scalable supply chain of ingredients, generating consumer acceptance and, last but not least, regulatory approval for regional markets such as the EU. The state of the art will be discussed and perspectives for the intermediate future will be provided. As this technology is used to produce meat, meat science is going to play an important role in defining the optimized steps to get from muscle and fat tissue to good quality meat. The concept also provides many opportunities for novel research in meat science as the cultured meat products can be versatile and adaptable to address specific questions that cannot be easily addressed with fixed format products: using cultured meat as a model system. It is therefore suggested that the development of cultured meat science will run parallel with the introduction of products in the market.
In the coming 35 years, it is anticipated that meat demand will rise by 70% due to the global population growth and increase in wealth of India and China. To ensure food security and to diminish the environmental and animal welfare burden of current beef production in some production regions, we envision an alternative by culturing meat from bovine muscle-specific stem cells. In August 2013, we presented the proof of concept by producing, cooking and eating a hamburger from cultured beef. It is clear that the product was not perfect and further research is necessary to improve the product and provide conditions for scaling up production. For cultured beef to be successful, four requirements need to be met. Production has to be resource efficient and sustainable; the eventual product has to be meat and not a substitute and the consumer needs to accept it. For realistic market appeal, production has to be scaled to an industrial scale, which will be a huge enterprise. Technical aspects and current state of technology with an estimated path to market introduction will be discussed. With more than 30 start-up companies world-wide, hundreds of millions of dollars of funding, investment by traditional meat companies and an estimated 1000 scientists working on this subject, cultured meat will become a realistic proposition, with the possibility to vastly reduce livestock numbers in equal measure for cattle, pigs, chicken, lamb and fish. Cultured meat is a multifaceted technology that will provide insight into many fascinating biological and psychological questions. At the same time, we urgently need to find solutions for the upcoming surge in meat consumption.
Dr Mark Post, MD/PhD, has had several appointments as assistant professor at Utrecht University, Harvard University, as associate professor at Dartmouth college, and as full professor at Eindhoven University of Technology and Maastricht University. He currently holds the chair of the Physiology Department at Maastricht University. He is visiting professor at Harvard, University of Modena and faculty at Singularity University. His main research interest is the engineering of tissues for medical applications and for food. The medical applications focus on the construction of blood vessels that can be used as grafts for coronary artery bypass grafting. Tissue engineering for Food has lead to the development of cultured beef from bovine skeletal muscle stem cells in an effort to transform the traditional meat production through livestock. Dr Post co-authored 165 papers in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals and received during his career over 50 million dollars in funding and awards from different sources including government, charity and industry. He presented the world’s first hamburger from cultured beef in the August 2013 and is working on improvements and scaling up the production of cultured meat. He received the World Technology Award from AAAS/Times/Forbes for invention with the biggest potential for environmental impact. Dr Post is CSO and co-founder of MosaMeat and of Qorium, two companies that aim to commercialize meat and leather applications of tissue engineering. He is CEO of Cell2Tissue, which is a developer of technologies in tissue engineering for consumer and health applications.