cellular agriculture
3 emerging trends in cell-cultured meat
Beyond the 'usual' proteins

Cell-based, cell-cultured, "clean meat" is a way to grow food, specifically animal protein, in a controlled environment (like a lab) without killing animals in the process. The availability of cell-cultured meat is a while off; however, the industry is heading in several interesting directions.

Aside from replicating the animal proteins that most Western countries consume, three curious themes are emerging:
Taboo foods
Breast milk
1. Taboo foods: delicacies, endangered species, and more

In many circles, delicacies like shark fin and foie gras are unthinkable to consume, given animals' unethical treatment, despite deep cultural traditions tied to these foods. Because cell-cultured meat doesn't harm animals, there is an opportunity to bring cell-cultured versions of these foods to market.

Paris-based Gourmey is creating cell-cultured foie gras from duck egg cells. Integriculture, which we'll talk more about below, is also developing a cell-cultured version of foie gras for the Japanese audience. Avant Meats is tackling fish maw or fish swim bladder, one of the delicacies of Chinese cuisine similar to shark fin. Traditionally, people gift fish maw or use it for medicinal purposes. The fish usually sought out for this purpose, totoaba and bahaba, are waning in number and illegal to hunt, and there is a black market for them. Thus a cell-based version of otherwise forbidden delicacies solves sourcing issues and could potentially remove stigmas around their consumption.

Vow Food is betting that our palettes will happily expand to undomesticated creatures if given the opportunity. They are examining what other tasty options mother nature has out there, from zebras to kangaroo to perhaps even a combination of animals. They are currently building out a cell library of exotic flavors for testing out on fearless consumers.

One member of the Shojinmeat project, an anthropology Ph.D. student, is pushing the boundaries even further by growing meat from her own body in a bioreactor. She hopes to inspire a conversation around the ethics of cannibalism--if no humans were harmed--with her culinary endeavor.
2. DIY cell-cultured meat

Why go to the store when you can make your own cell-cultured meat at home? Citizen scientists from all over the world are answering this question through knowledge-sharing and open-source research. Initially inspired by science fiction and anime, the Shojinmeat Project launched an online platform in 2015 to democratize the study and development of cell-based meat with a collaborative model. Their open-source community engages with citizen scientists and cultured-meat enthusiasts of all ages and walks of life. Flash forward to today, their community-based model has resulted in an affordable cell-culture medium and materials, as well as novel ways of extracting live cells. They have grown fish, oysters, and other meats at a much lower price than the large-scale commercial operations we see coming to market. Their site offers a comprehensive guide to creating cell-based meat and sets home-based cultured meat enthusiasts up for success.

This ground-up approach has morphed into additional projects for the founder, Dr. Yuki Hanyu. He heads a spin-off called Integriculture that is creating a cell-based meat product (foie gras). They also sell "SpaceSalt", a media for culturing cells, and plan to contribute cell-based animal protein products, research, and best practices to the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and agricultural industries.

Singapore-based Shiok Meats CEO Sandhya Sriram made headlines earlier this year by suggesting that everyone could have a bioreactor in their home that grows cell-cultured meat in ten years. In the meantime,
Shiok Meats teamed up with Integriculture with the hope to scale up their commercial shrimp product in a cost-effective manner.
3. Breast milk

One of the most nutrient-rich substances in the world is breast milk, and soon that will be available from a lab. North Carolina-based Biomilq is creating human breast milk from stem cells. Their goal is to support mothers who would otherwise turn to formula, which is inherently less nutritious to feed their babies. TurtleTree Labs in Singapore is developing clean cow's milk that can be consumed as is or used in dairy by-products like cheese, ice cream, and butter. They're also researching mother's milk from other species. For example, mother snow leopards often don't produce enough milk when breeding in captivity, so they're looking into adding snow leopard milk to their repertoire.
The future of protein will look a little different
From addressing environmental issues around livestock to animal husbandry's ethics, cell-cultured meat is attempting to solve a wide array of problems. These three emergent trends have the potential to change cultural norms around what protein we eat, how we source it, and potentially expand our palette in unimaginable ways.
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