Scientists predict cultured meat factories for every town

Thursday, 22 May, 2014

One day, every town could have its own small-scale cultured meat factory, scientists have predicted in the journal Trends in Biotechnology.

“We believe that cultured meat is part of the future,” said Cor van der Weele of Wageningen University in The Netherlands.

“Other parts of the future are partly substituting meat with vegetarian products, keeping fewer animals in better circumstances, perhaps eating insects, etc. This discussion is certainly part of the future in that it is part of the search for a ‘protein transition’. It is highly effective in stimulating a growing awareness and discussion of the problems of meat production and consumption.”

van der Weele and co-author Johannes Tramper say that rising demand for meat around the world is unsustainable in terms of environmental pollution and energy consumption, not to mention the animal suffering caused by factory farming.

In their paper, van der Weele and Tramper outline a potential meat manufacturing process, starting with a vial of cells taken from a cell bank and ending with a pressed ‘cake’ of meat that is minced for burgers.

Flow chart of a potential cultured meat manufacturing process. Image credit: Trends in Biotechnology, van der Weele et al.

Flow chart of a potential cultured meat manufacturing process. Image credit: Trends in Biotechnology, van der Weele et al.

However, they say there will be challenges when it comes to maintaining a continuous stem cell line and producing cultured meat that is cheaper than traditionally produced meat. They predict the price of traditionally produced meat would have to rise considerably to make cultured meat an affordable option.

“Cultured meat has great moral promise,” van der Weele and Tramper wrote. “Worries about its unnaturalness might be met through small-scale production methods that allow close contact with cell-donor animals, thereby reversing feelings of alienation. From a technological perspective, ‘village-scale’ production is also a promising option.”

The first lab-grown hamburger was created in 2013 by Mark Post, a professor of tissue engineering at Maastricht University, also in The Netherlands.

The paper, ‘Cultured meat: every village its own factory?’, is available from

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