A company called Modern Meadow is working on something that could eventually change the way our food is produced. They are attempting to use a bioprinter to mass produce meat and leather.
The Thiel Foundation (funded by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel) backed Modern Meadow with a $350,000 grant to help them get started.
The result? So far the team has been creating small pieces of artificially grown muscle, about 2cm long, 1cm wide and about 1mm thick.
What exactly goes into the Franken-meat? According to Andras Forgacs, CEO of Modern Meadow, "The input are largely animal cells (muscle, fat and a couple other types – taken from a donor animal through a biopsy) and cell culture media (a soup in which the cells grow made of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, salts, sugars) and then energy to run the process. Output is muscle tissue that is then matured/conditioned until it is processed into meat products."
In order to bioprint the meat, Forgacs' team starts with the biopsied cells, and prints them into agarose gel (the support media). The gel support is removed once the cells fuse together, which happens naturally.
While it looks like they are going to be able to successfully produce lab-created meat, the question on everyone's mind has got to be, "Sure but, how does it taste?" According to Forgacs, they aren't quite there yet.
"I've tasted it as have my colleagues. We've only been able to have small bites since we're still working on getting the process right. I cooked some pieces in olive oil and ate some with and without salt and pepper. Not bad. The taste is good but not yet fully like meat. We have yet to get the fat content right and other elements that influence taste. This process will be iterative and involve us working closely with our consulting chefs."
Nearly 300 million tons of meat are eaten worldwide annually and that number is expected to double over the next 30-40 years. While the Modern Meadow meat may not sound appetizing, it could eventually be a workable solution to the supply vs. demand issues future generations will face.
You can watch Forgacs eat the bioprinted meat below, at about 5:33.