Food scientists and chefs have long been looking for ways to replicate the taste of meat without actually using meat. In China, for example, protein-rich tofu , bean curd, is a meat substitute. CGTN’s Mark Niu took a look at a new wave of startups, pushing the idea much further, by going to the “cellular level.”
IndieBio Founder Arvind Gupta said,”The actual taste is spot on because that’s what it is. The texture is coming along because the muscle fiber aren’t as long and structured.”
Gupta is the founder of biotech accelerator IndieBio-a program Memphis Meats went through, one of the first to reveal a most unusual recipe-taking self-renewing cells from animals to grow meat in the lab. He says it’s still very expensive to grow meat, but scientists are quickly making progress.
“Mark Post, a researcher from Netherlands who made the first patty, about five years ago, cost him $300,000 to make that,” said Gupta. “Memphis Meats made the first meatball for $30,000, much cheaper. That was about two years ago. Today they are making meat, duck, chicken, for much cheaper than that.”
He added that the technical part needs to be completely solved.
About a quarter of IndieBio’s portfolio is made up of food and agriculture companies. Half use plant-based materials to imitate meat and the other half-use animals cells to create it.
The space also has companies like Terramino, which fall somewhere in between. They are using fungi, which isn’t technically plant or animal. And they are culturing it in hopes of making the first vegan-free Salmon filet.
They’ve begun by mixing it with cream cheese for a dip. Let me see how it tastes.
“The Fungi comes in these beautiful fiber that are very similar to animal muscle fibers of all types,” said Terramino Foods CEO Kimberlie Le. “It can be chicken, it can be pork, it can beef, it can be all different types of seafood.”
Seafood is the primary focus of another IndieBio graduate, Finless Foods. The team is working on creating Surimi, a fish cake used extensively in Asian cuisine. With lab-grown food, animals aren’t killed.
“I was blown away by how much it tastes like the ocean, like fish,” said Gupta. “It’s less for me about not killing animals and it’s more for this is a scalable architecture that will be able to provide protein for everybody on the planet in a way that’s sustainable for the planet.”
Gupta expects lab-grown meat products to be on the market within a few years. But despite the environmental benefits, their success may ultimately come down to whether consumers think it tastes and feels like the real thing.
CGTN’s Mark Niu spoke with Finless Foods CEO Mike Selden about his company’s work in cell agriculture.