Trends in Biotechnology

Figure 1

Flow sheet of a potential cultured-meat manufacturing process. The left column shows the stepwise increase in cell-culture volume, starting with a vial from the working cell bank (note that a new working cell bank is made from a vial from the master cell bank). Exponentially growing cells from each step serve, after growing to a certain cell density, as the inoculum of the next culture vessel, which is an order of magnitude larger. The final bioreactor starts only partially filled and is fed with sterile medium at such a rate that the cells grow further under optimal conditions. When the bioreactor is full and the desired cell density is reached, the protein-crosslinking enzyme transglutaminase and binding protein are added to induce the formation of easily settling aggregates of cells, which quickly settle when stirring is stopped (bottom right). The harvested cells are pressed and the cake is extruded into retailer- and/or consumer-size portions of minced meat (right column).

Rising global demand for meat will result in increased environmental pollution, energy consumption, and animal suffering. Cultured meat, produced in an animal-cell cultivation process, is a technically feasible alternative lacking these disadvantages, provided that an animal-component-free growth medium can be developed. Small-scale production looks particularly promising, not only technologically but also for societal acceptance. Economic feasibility, however, emerges as the real obstacle.

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