Written By: 2023 Communications Intern, Talia Sanchez
Interested in more content form Talia? Her professional Instagram account is @circularwellness
A new age of biotechnologies has ignited progress toward an alternative to animal agriculture. In response to human health concerns, poor animal welfare, food insecurity, and the looming climate crisis, a new method of food production is emerging: lab-grown meat.
We saw some experimentation with lab-grown meat in the 1990s, but it really took off in 2013 when Mark Post, co-founder of Mosa Meat, created the first-ever lab-grown hamburger patty costing roughly $325,000. The first commercial sale of cultivated meat took place in December 2020 by Eat Just Inc. in Singapore.
History was made in November 2022 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awarded Upside Foods and Good Meat regulatory approval to produce the nation's first cultured chicken from cultivated cells.
What is lab-grown meat?
Cultivated meat is cellular agriculture - the process takes animal cells and reproduces them in-vitro (in a laboratory instead of their normal biological context) through techniques pioneered by regenerative medicine.
Regenerative medicine examples include stem cell therapy, tissue engineering for transplantations of organs and tissues, and immunomodulation therapy.
The process 
First, companies identify top-tier, healthy, highly efficient animals and extract a small amount of stem cells via a syringe or through a biopsy (surgically removing a small section of tissue). One cell sample actually contains millions of cells.
Once the cells are collected, a cell line is established (a cell line is a population of cells originating from a single cell having multiplied when provided the right medium and space.)
Once the cell line is created, a substantial master cell bank is generated. The cell lines are frozen in small vials; these cell lines are viable for years, even decades. The process of freezing cell lines enables producers to limit the number of cells required from animals in the future.
Next is the cultivation process. A cell line is selected and placed into a cultivator (vessels that provide temperature-controlled, clean, and closed environments for cells to grow;) once inside the cultivator, they are given nutrients including water, sugars, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and salt. Soon these groups of cells begin to multiply and grow. The size and amount of cultivators are adjusted to ensure that they have sufficient room to grow.
Once the cultivation process is complete (2-3 weeks) the cells have multiplied to the extent that they resemble natural meat. The “meat” is harvested, separated, and molded into the shape of its desired animal product (burger or filet etc.) through scaffolding or bioprinting. Cell scaffolding is usually made of biomaterials, providing the structural support for cell attachment and future tissue development. Bioprinting is a 3D printing technique which combines cells, growth factors, and/or biomaterials to imitate natural tissue characteristics.
At the final step, depending on the product, the “meat” is seasoned and/or breaded, frozen, packaged, and delivered!
Rethinking industrial animal agriculture
The truth behind animal agriculture is gruesome and the industry goes a long way to conceal it. The industry is one of the major causes of global issues like land degradation and soil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions, animal exploitation, and food-borne illnesses.
With vegetarianism, veganism, and innovations in meat and dairy alternatives on the rise, many options exist for moving forward. For example, when done with intention, meat production through regenerative farming techniques can vastly improve the climate crisis as well. Check out our article on regenerative agriculture to learn more!) Alternatively, the cultivated meat industry gives meat eaters the opportunity to enjoy their favorite foods while reducing unsustainable land-use and carbon emissions and improving animal welfare.
Would you try lab-grown meat?
Who’s Pioneering this Promising Industry?
Mosa Meat is a food technology company building the world's “kindest” beef burger and was one of the first.
Upside Foods produced the world’s first lab-grown chicken, beef meatball, and duck.
GOOD Meat originally launched in Singapore; GOOD Meat’s cultivated chicken is now for sale in the U.S. The first restaurant to serve GOOD Meat in the U.S. is China Chilcano by José Andrés in Washington D.C.
Believer Meats is launching Believer® Chicken soon, aiming to bring a full range of chicken classics, from chicken strips to chicken breasts.
Multus Biotechnology creates key ingredients for the affordable scale-up of cellular agriculture.
BioBetter Ltd. offers plant-sourced growth factors (a growth factor is a naturally occurring substance capable of stimulating cell multiplication) made through repurposing tobacco plants as bioreactors to address the growing demand in cellular agriculture.