At the end of September, the Ochakov Food Ingredients Plant (OKPI), a Russian food innovation lab, announced it has produced the country’s first sample of cultivated meat.
“Cultivated meat” is one of the terms used to indicate meat produced by in vitro cultivation of animal cells, without the need to slaughter any animal.
In this case, the 40-gram sample was grown using the muscle tissue of an Aberdeen Angus calf.
The project was carried out over a 2-year period and the sample cost 900,000 rubles (around $14,000) to produce, stated the lab in its press release.
“In vitro meat, also known as cultivated meat, is a very promising direction for the meat industry [...] From our point of view, laboratory meat production has the most significant ethical significance for modern society, since we can refuse the slaughter of living creatures to obtain meat,” said Nikolai Shimanovsky, a molecular pharmacologist and the project’s head.
Barring legal impediments, the lab predicted that locally-produced cultivated meat may appear in Russian supermarkets by 2023 at a retail price of 800 rubles per kilo ($12).
Globally, meat production is expected to double by 2050 with damaging consequences in terms of land abuse, water depletion, carbon emissions and animal welfare.
Growing meat in the lab could then potentially be an effective way to curb the environmental impact of the intensive animal farming industry while meeting the demands of a growing world population.
In 2013, Dutch scientist Mark Post presented the first lab-grown burger ever created (it cost €250,000 to produce). Since then, many startups and companies around the globe joined the race to produce and to commercialize the first samples of lab grown meat.
This kind of meat is not to be confused with plant-based meat, vegan products which mimic the flavor and texture of animal meat. Vegan meat is already on the market and producers like Beyond Meat and Impossible Food attracted a great deal of financial and media attention over the past year.
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