Mosa Meat is a Dutch startup co-founded by the scientist behind the world’s first lab-grown burger, Mark Post. After an early investment from Google co-founder Sergey Brin, the company has now raised €7.5 million from investors including M Ventures (Merck’s venture capital arm) and the Bell Food Group, which is the largest meat company in Switzerland.
Mosa Meat expects to introduce the first product made of lab-grown meat into the market by 2021. This will be a premium product that could be then followed by less expensive products as the company scales up production.
Lab-grown meat could solve some of the biggest problems of our time. As the human population increases, the demand for meat is expected to grow by 70%. However, traditional farming takes up a huge amount of land and is considered one of the biggest contributors to global warming.
“The first product will be a ground beef product, most likely a hamburger,” said Peter Verstrate, CEO of the company. “Ground products make up 50% of the total meat market, [and] it is more of a scientific challenge to create a 3D structure, such as a steak.”
A hamburger made from cultured meat
Source: Mosa Meat
In addition to reducing land use and pollution, lab-grown meat could be healthier, as it doesn’t require using antibiotics. It is also made without harming any animals.
“We are focusing on beef because cows are the least efficient links in production — chickens are four times as efficient — and therefore cows use the most resources and emit the most greenhouse gases, we plan to expand to other species in future,” Verstrate explained.
The process of making cultured meat (also known as clean meat) is similar to making livestock meat, except the cells grow outside the animal’s body.
The first step is to take some cells from the muscle of an animal, such as a cow if we’re making beef, which is done with a small biopsy under anaesthesia.
The cells that are taken are called “myosatellite” cells, which are the stem cells of muscles. The function of these stem cells within the animal is to create new muscle tissue when the muscle is injured. It is this inherent talent of the stem cells that are utilised in making cultured meat.
The cells are placed in a medium containing nutrients and naturally-occurring growth factors and allowed to proliferate just as they would inside an animal. They proliferate until one gets trillions of cells from a small sample.