It seems like fake meat is everywhere, with fast food chains like Burger King getting in on the trend. Right now, most of the products out there are plant-based alternatives designed to imitate meat, but soon, we might be buying meat and other food grown in a lab. What have scientists successfully cooked up so far?
While full harvests have yet to be grown from scratch, scientists in Finland have figured out how to make plant cell cultures from fresh fruit. Using cells from lingonberries, cloudberries, and stoneberries, they made nutritious and tasty cultures. In fact, the scientists say the cultures are actually more nutritious than the real thing, and higher in fiber and protein. In their current form, they could be used to make fruit compotes, smoothies, and snacks. They don’t look like the berries they came from – an image from a news story reveals a culture looks like a colorful pile of sand – but further research could allow scientists to tweak the genetics of existing fruit and veggies, making them more nutritious.
Because meat is such a big part of diets around the world, scientists have been trying to replicate the food in the lab for a long time. In 2001, a team was able to create a small fish fillet from goldfish muscle tissue. Over a decade later, in 2013, a team from the University of Maastricht produced the first lab-grown hamburger. How is this done? Using stem cell samples from a cow, and then growing them in serum of nutrients and protein, so the stem cells start growing into muscle tissue. Over time and with proper maintenance, you get actual cuts of meat.
After five years of work, biotech company Perfect Day has successfully produced totally cow-free ice cream from a lab. They use whey protein and casein from modified yeast, not cows, to get an ice cream that’s very close to the real thing. So far, Perfect Day has only sold samples to around 1,000 people, and just three pints costs $60. The company’s plan is to harness the power of their proteins, and work with governments, organizations, and other leaders in food sustainability.