Can we really have our burger, eat it—and never need to kill a cow? Growing meat outside of animals—in a lab or, these days, in shiny steel bioreactors—promises to deliver a future in which we can enjoy sausages and sushi without guilt, and maybe even without sending our planet up in smoke. For years, it's seemed like science fiction, but it's finally a reality: this month, Americans will get their first chance to buy cultivated meat in a restaurant. But how exactly do you get chicken nuggets, BLTs, and bluefin sashimi from a bunch of cells growing in large metal vats? Does this new cultivated meat taste any good? Can enough be grown to replace industrial meat? And, if so, is this new technology actually an improvement on industrial animal agriculture and fishing? Gastropod is on the case! Join us this episode as we sink our teeth into a whole lot of lab-grown lunches, uncover the science behind the sci-fi, and investigate whether the companies making cultivated meat can actually fulfill the lofty promises they make.
SCiFi Foods focuses on using lab-cultivated animal cells to bring meaty flavor to plant-based products.
Mission Barns is creating cultivated pork fat to add flavor and mouthfeel to their plant-based pork products.
Wildtype is creating lab-cultivated salmon.
Finless Foods makes both plant-based and cell-cultured seafood, and hosted us for a tasting of their cultured bluefin tuna.
Left, Finless Foods' starting point for growing tuna in a lab rather than the ocean: a nutrient-rich feed that gives cells everything they need to grow. Right, nigiri made with the finished product, lab-cultivated bluefin tuna (on the far right) aside the real thing from a fish (on the left). Photos by Nicola Twilley.
Ben Wurgaft is a writer and essayist, and the author of Meat Planet: Artificial Flesh and the Future of Food.
Dave Humbird is a chemical engineering consultant, and the author of a 2021 report on the potential scale-up economics of cultivated meat.
This episode of Gastropod was supported in part by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and Economics. Check out the other books, movies, shows, podcasts, and more that they support here.
This episode of Gastropod was supported in part by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund for our coverage of biomedical research. Their support also enables us to share the special supporters-only newsletter that accompanies this episode with a wider audience.
Where's the Cultivated Chicken?
Our pals at Eater have the scoop on the U.S. restaurants now serving cultivated meat, should you fancy trying some yourself...
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