Good Thinking

SuperMeat seeks to replace slaughterhouses with science

The product avoids the cruelty inherent in many types of animal farming
The product avoids the cruelty inherent in many types of animal farming
View 3 Images
The product avoids the cruelty inherent in many types of animal farming
1/3
The product avoids the cruelty inherent in many types of animal farming
SuperMeat is the result of research by Israeli biomedical engineer, Yaakov Nahmias.
2/3
SuperMeat is the result of research by Israeli biomedical engineer, Yaakov Nahmias.
The company claims the product can help reduce emissions and fight climate change
3/3
The company claims the product can help reduce emissions and fight climate change

Ever since the UN released its 2006 Livestock's Long Shadow report on the impact animal agriculture has on climate change, the environmental case for ditching meat and going vegan has been gaining traction. One of the alternatives being cooked up to help people do that is synthetic meat, but so far none of the options has been scaled up to become mass-market-friendly. And this is the paradigm shift that SuperMeat is aiming at promoting as it raises funds to get its cruelty-free, animal-friendly cultured chicken meat out in the market.

SuperMeat is an Israeli start-up whose goal is to mass manufacture cultured meat grown in a lab from chicken cells (unlike Beyond Meat, which is plant-based chicken). Basically, it is developing a machine to grow its cultured chicken. The idea is to create what it calls a "distributive manufacturing of cultured meat," which translates into a device that can be used in stores, restaurants, and even homes.

It is the brainchild of biomedical engineer and professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yaakov Nahmias, co-founder of the start-up. Nahmias is known for his work at the helm of MicroLIVER technologies and his cutting-edge work in liver tissue engineering and nanotechnology therapies for diabetes.

Lab meat

The cultured meat that SuperMeat proposes is produced from chicken cells that are grown to huge numbers from a single biopsy, taken without hurting the animal. Quite likely, this may not sit well with vegans, but meat-eaters are lab meat's real target.

The cells from the biopsy are broken down into separate cells that proliferate in culture. Then, using tissue-engineering techniques refined from principles of regenerative medicine, they are incubated in a specially designed bioreactor that mimics the natural body of the animal where they grow organically into full-size tissue.

SuperMeat is the result of research by Israeli biomedical engineer, Yaakov Nahmias.
SuperMeat is the result of research by Israeli biomedical engineer, Yaakov Nahmias.

The cells are then enriched with nutrients that help them thrive, divide and develop a chunk of animal meat, ready to be cooked as a meal.

This approach is what allows SuperMeat to design small scale meat-producing devices. It also makes it possible to enhance the nutritional value of the meat, making it richer in various nutrients, such as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and others.

Benefits

Besides the well-documented cruelty involved in animal agriculture, livestock is known to cause significant environmental problems. It accounts for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. It is also the source of 37 percent of methane gas emissions. In leading beef-producing countries like Brazil, it is the main cause of deforestation, as ranchers replace the Amazon forest with pasture, wreaking havoc with rivers and soil.

Water is also a massive issue. According to Food Tank, it takes 1,799 gallons (6,810 l) of water to produce one pound (0.45 kg) of beef while one pound of pork takes 576 gallons (2,180 l). Plants are much less thirsty; one pound of soybeans require 216 gallons (818 l), while corn takes 108 gallons (409 l). Animal agriculture in general consumes 34-76 trillion gallons (129-288 l) of water of every year, say the producers of Cowspiracy, a documentary film on the environmental impact of animal food production.

The company claims the product can help reduce emissions and fight climate change
The company claims the product can help reduce emissions and fight climate change

SuperMeat says its solution will help reduce those figures. It needs 99 percent less land to make its cultured meat and says it can promote a reduction of 96 percent in greenhouse gases and water use from traditional meat-production methods.

Besides, SuperMeat says its product is cleaner and safer for consumption because it is grown under strictly supervised conditions, decreasing the risk of bacterial contamination. It would also be free of the growth hormones given to cattle in feeding lots.

Finally, the SuperMeat team also argues that it could benefit people in countries suffering from food scarcity. The company claims the product will be affordable, as it avoids all the costs involved in the raising and feeding of billions of animals.

Campaign

To make SuperMeat a reality, the company has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign featuring the witty video embedded below. At the time of writing this article, the campaign still had two months to go but had already surpassed its fundraising goal of US$100,000 by 19 percent. The next goal is US$500,000 to create a meat machine prototype.

SuperMeat expects its product will cost US$5 per kilo (2.2 lb), but it is too early to say whether it will be sold by weight or package, it tells Gizmag.

Funding packages start at $20 for a SuperMeat voucher; $50 will get the voucher and a pin; $100 a voucher and T-shirt; and those willing to fork out $5,000 will get $1,000 in vouchers plus their name on the package label. Delivery is estimated for December 2016 if all goes according to plan. Once the product hits the market, pledgers will be able to use their vouchers at retail outlets, which will be found across the globe according to demand.

Sources: SuperMeat, Indiegogo

13 comments
alki
That's the future of food. It's called ArtMeat for "artificial meat". But instead of producing it in a lab, can't we engineer a plant to produce meat-like fruits?
LordInsidious
This and similar products are going to change the economy and help fight climate change. Can't wait.
Hmmmm...
This is a very fine engineering feat. I have one question... If this is being done (in part) for animal welfare, what happens to all the livestock if this is adopted widescale? It is unlikely that anyone is going to keep a cow, sheep, pig or even a chicken as a "pet" once the social norm alienates this as "not environmentally friendly", or "water wasteful" or whatever and I can't imagine any farmers keeping them on once they are made redundant and cannot be used for income. Can you imagine the day when the only way to see a cow, a pig, a sheep or a chicken is to visit the zoo? It has been stated many times that the biggest risk to "Western Society" is that of power outage and there is a very real risk for the lights to go out for days, weeks or possibly even months. Wouldn't it be a pain if the ability to produce food stopped as soon as we were unable to produce power. The price of food goes up because of a power shortage. I can imagine on hot days, we will be told to turn off our air conditioners (or electric heaters in winter) to maintain food production. Extreme views? Maybe. Possible? Definitely. We don't always know what goes into our food (I get around this by buying directly from a primary producer of choice), but EVERYTHING man-made has problems. Do you really want those problems (potentially) absorbed into your genes and passed on to your children?? Also, I notice that "famine relief" is last on the list of benefits. That seems a shame, as any food is better than no food.
Redmercury
Hmmmm, did sailboats disappear with the onset of coal steamers? Did horses disappear with the onset of motor vehicles? I don't doubt that in a world where synthetic meat is the norm, meat from livestock will be expensive (appropriately), but a demand for real meat isn't going to disappear. It might just be more of a luxury. Furthermore, I wouldn't worry too much about outage driven starvation when we already produce enough produce to feed everyone off of.
Brad456
My Prediction based on two decades of research in the food industry. The first phase of lab meat will be derived from GMO crops and artificial chemicals . it will be a big success. it will be called FabMeat. The second phase of lab meat will be derived from pond scum. it will be a big success. it will be called GreenMeat. the third phase will be derived from reconstituted sewage. it will be a very big success. it will be called EarthMeat. spices and seasoning will be made from petroleum byproducts. average life expectancy of meat eaters in 2045 is 42 years. average life expectancy of vegetarians in 2045 is 122 years.
GiolliJoker
This is kinda frightening. I'll need to have my own farm and hunt game meat before it's too late.
UncleToad
I'm sticking with Soylent Green Actually, if this is synthetic meat, does that mean that it is automatically kosher or halal ?
RamachandraKV
The name NAHMIAS , with the letters re-arranged becomes NA-HIMSA, which in Sanskrit means 'cruelty-free,. How very appropriate ! Ramachandra
pwndecaf
I think I would prefer plant-based "meat" over cultured meat. It sounds safer to me. Despite being a meat-eater, I think I would gag on lab meat.
Lbrewer42
Once again the lie of global warming suckers people into money being spent uselessly. No doubt the prices will be exorbitant also as is always the case with anything done to prevent the non-existent problem. ....7th grade Science lesson here folks: CO2 is called a greenhouse gas b/c it is associated with plants - in hot greenhouses. Scientific problem... Heat in the greenhouse is from the plants using up (removing) the CO2 in the greenhouse to make water vapor, O2, and food for themselves in a process called (remember 7th grade science?) PHOTOSYNTHESIS. The scientific FACT is the water vapor is what makes it hot (ever hear of humidity or the nightly news giving a "heat index" rating based on humidity?) CO2 cannot hold in heat - it is not a property is has. Politicians and kowtowing-to-the-almighty-dollar pseudo-scientists are the ones lying for the sake of money. Quit being a puppet. DO some research on the Hockey Stick graph, the farce behind it, and see the corrected version. Also google "Game Over, the IPCC quietly admits defeat." The IPCC is the global warming "go-to" of the UN that has been comp[iling reports for the last 15 years. But when the reports are all put togehter, they had to admit there was no global warming. Read it for yourself instead of being a puppet. The link you will find is not someone making false claims - it is the IPCC data itself.
Thanks for reading our articles. Please consider subscribing to New Atlas Plus.
By doing so you will be supporting independent journalism, plus you will get the benefits of a faster, ad-free experience.