Jerusalem, Octorber 7 (WNM/Xinhua) - Lab-grown meat has been successfully cultured in space for the first time.
The Israeli food technology startup Aleph Farms grew the meat on the International Space Station, 248 miles (339 km) away from any natural resources.
Bovine cells were harvested on Earth and taken to space, where they were grown into small-scale muscle tissue using a 3D bioprinter. The method relies on mimicking a natural process of muscle-tissue regeneration occurring inside a cow’s body.
The experiment took place on 26 September on the Russian segment of the space station, and involved the assembly of small-scale muscle tissue in a 3D bioprinter under controlled microgravity conditions. In future the technique could be used to provide meat for people living on the space station.
Brave customers could expect to take the first taste of the lab-grown meat soon, as a number of Israeli companies plan to produce it for mass consumption in the coming years.
Israeli companies have already succeeded in the recent years in producing meat chunks in laboratories. However, the main challenge for commercializing it is to make the production cost effective to compete with the traditional meat industry.
The lab-grown meat was given several names, yet the most used one is "clean meat," indicating that the meat grown in laboratories is without hormones, antibiotics and foodborne diseases.
Bruce Friedrich, CEO and co-founder of the Good Meat Institute, a U.S. based NGO which promotes clean meat in Israel as well, said in an interview with Xinhua that he sees Israel as a leading country in clean meat research.
"There are at least three Israeli companies that can if they wish to sell their products anytime. I believe the first company which actually sell clean meat to the public will be probably Israeli or American in 2019," said Friedrich.
"In the end, it will be much cheaper to produce clean meat rather than the traditional meat however in the first years it will be I believe 30 percent more expensive," he said.
Ronen Bar, chairman of the board of the Modern Agriculture Foundation (MAF) in Israel, said that MAF started in 2014 to make the "clean meat."
"Israel and the U.S. are the leading countries in clean meat technological revolution. While Europe has only one clean meat company, small Israel has four," said Bar.
MAF was the first in Israel to promote the idea of making meat without slaughtering animals. The members of the MAF are part of the Israeli growing vegan and environmental movements.
"After India, Israel has the highest percentage of people who don't eat meat. Israel has around 13 percent of vegans and vegetarians," said Bar.
"Only about 40-50 million U.S. dollars are invested in clean meat industry worldwide. I hope governments will start promoting it, this can and should be a world effort, like cracking the human genome was in the 1990s," he said.
MAF aims to end worldwide systematic abuse of animals and environmental destruction caused by it. In 2014, it initiated the first "clean chicken meat" research project.
Amit Gefen, professor of biomedical engineering at Israel's Tel Aviv University, was the researcher chosen by MAF to study the possibility of growing chicken meat in the lab.
"We chose poultry because it is the most common meat around the world and everybody eats it in most cultures, no religion bans it, and these birds are probably suffering the most," said Gefen.
The research results were optimistic and showed the feasibility of making mass production of poultry meat at competitive prices.
Ido Savir, CEO and co-founder of SuperMeat, Israel's first clean meat company, said the company plans to sell in 2020 or 2021 its products to high-end restaurants around the world, in competitive prices.
"We aim to sell in 2023-2028 our products as well to supermarkets around the globe. Our products will be from different kinds of meat especially high-end chicken and duck meat," said Savir.
SuperMeat is considered one of the leading clean meat companies in the world after it formed a strategic partnership with PHW, one of Europe's largest poultry producers.
Recently, SuperMeat started to cooperate as well with Israeli leading poultry products producer, Soglowek company.
Didier Toubia, CEO and co-founder of Aleph Farms, another Israeli clean meat company, said the company plans to complete the development of its first clean meant product at the end of 2020.
"We will have a limited launch at restaurants in 2021, It will be beef meat and will cost the same price as conventional meat within three to five years from launch," said Toubia.
Rom Kshuk, CEO of Future Meat Technologies, said it will reduce the cost of its clean meat production to a competitive price and market it by 2021.
Israeli clean meat companies believe if they succeed, they will make a historical change in the food industry to start the next agricultural revolution.
According to an often quoted Oxford study, clean meat could potentially be produced with up to 96 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions, 45 percent less energy, 99 percent lower land use, and 96 percent lower water use than conventional meat.
The traditional livestock industry is responsible for 14.5-18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions that make it more than the emission of all the world's transportations combined.
Arturo Geifman, chairman and co-founder of BioFood Systems, the latest Israeli clean meat company founded in 2018, said that the environmental consideration was preeminent in creating the company.
"Meat industry uses 26 percent of Earth's ice-free surface or 70 percent of all agricultural land for livestock farming purpose. It consumes 27-29 percent of humanity's fresh water," said Geifman.
"Livestock farming is a top contributor to deforestation, land degradation, water pollution and desertification. About 80 percent of all antibiotics are given to livestock, and it is the most significant contributor to antibiotic resistance in humans," Geifman told Xinhua.
"Traditional beef production is the most water wasteful, with 16,000 liters of water needed to create a kilogram of meat while a kilogram of clean meat would require only 640 liters of water," he added.
Despite Israel's lead in the clean meat innovation, the history of this field did not start there.
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in 1931 that "we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium." It took 82 years to turn Churchill's vision into reality.
During a press conference in London in 2013, Mark Post, a professor at Netherlands' Maastricht University, showed the world the first burger made in a laboratory.
This burger was made after two-year efforts, at a remarkably high cost of more than 300,000 U.S. dollars. The meat was made in a lab from cultured cells taken from a cow and multiplied in a Petri dish until it became a burger patty.
Nowadays, there are about 20 startups and companies around the globe trying to produce in laboratory the affordable and moral meat, which is free of animals' suffering, to feed the world.