There is a way to produce meat. Instead of raising livestock on farms, the co- founder of Upside Foods wanted to grow meat in a production facility by culturing animal cells.
The idea for what's now called "cultivated" meat came to Valeti when he was working with heart attack patients. He realized that it could be possible to grow meat with the same science.
Scientists could extract cells from an animal via a needle biopsy, place them in tanks and feed them the nutrition they need to grow into meat.
It took years of experimentation by a crew of biologists, biochemists and engineers to turn that idea into a product. The company is waiting for approval from the FDA to sell its first cultivated meat products.
This could happen in the very near future after four years of talks with the FDA. Over 50,000 pounds of cultivated meat products will be produced annually by Upside's production facility in Emeryville.
As we toured the 70,000- square-foot facility, Valeti told me that people thought it was science fiction. This is true.
We wore gowns, goggles and hair nets to maintain food safety protocols while on the tour and walked past shiny, brewery-style tanks.
These tanks are called cultivators in this industry.
The process had a futuristic vibe but by the end of the tour, it felt ordinary to me.
The facility's glass walls look out into a busy upscale neighborhood filled with restaurants. The glass walls are meant to be transparent. People should be able to see and believe a paradigm change.
There will be a lot of competition when cultivated meats enter the market. There are more than 80 companies in the space. Good Meat, part of Eat Just, Inc., will serve cultivated chicken at the climate conference this week after introducing its product in Singapore Sci-fi Foods, founded by a self-proclaimed "burger-obsessed food lovers", wants to blend cultivated beef with a plant-based recipe to create a hybrid burger that will be better for the planet.
As consumers connect the dots between what they eat and the environment, investment is going to accelerate. It's nearly impossible to meet climate goals without changing agriculture, as one third of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions come from food production.
According to scientists, beef is a leading source of methane emissions because it requires a lot of land to grow it. Less land and grain is needed to raise chickens. Water pollution is related to concentrated poultry operations.
The emergence of diseases that spread between animals and people is a risk factor for concentrated animal feeding operations.
There was a belief that there was a better way to cook meat.
In medical school, he worked in a dining hall. Hundreds of chickens were hanging on a production line at the slaughter house. "They were upside down with blood everywhere, moving at blazing speed, they were upside down with blood everywhere, moving at blazing speed, they were upside down with blood everywhere, moving at blazing speed, they were upside down with blood everywhere, moving at blazing speed, they were upside down with I had an image in my head.
He became a vegetarian because he was aware that many people are. Climate change scientists want people to eat less meat, but the globe wants more of it. In the early 1980s, Americans ate less than 200 pounds of meat a year.
He was convinced he could develop a viable technique for cultivating meat from animal cells after his aha moment. It was nearly impossible to leave after I got that idea.
In 2015, he started raising money and started Upside. His wife, a doctor, was supportive of the decision despite the risks involved in a start-up.
He's won over a lot of investors, including Bill Gates, and the company is now worth more than a billion dollars. Tyson and others have invested in traditional meat production.
Many people don't like the idea of meat being grown in tanks, but the emerging industry believes in the potential of the market. The research shows that Gen Z consumers are more likely to try meat than baby boomers.
Bruce Friedrich of the Good Food Institute is bullish on the prospects for plant-based meat.
Friedrich says that climate conscious consumers would likely be the first to adopt, but for the market to really take off the products need to taste great and be cheap. They're going to stay niche until they get there. People make their food choices based on price and taste.
He said the goal was to be price-competitive. It will take a while to build. He says his team is prepared to impress consumers.
We tasted Upside Foods' chicken in the company's test kitchen. It's not yet legal to sell cell-cultured meat in the U.S., so I was asked to sign a Waiver before I tasted it.
I was served a piece of their chicken that was pan- fried. I thought it was delicious. Everything in wine-butter sauce? The texture was very similar to the texture of chicken breast. I said that it tasted like chicken, to which Valeti replied, "It is chicken!"
It took a long time for the technology behind these bites to be developed. The feed for the cells was one of the main challenges. A lot of trial and error was involved in the design of the exact formula for cells.
The feed needs to maximize growth, but also give a good taste, texture and nutrition. No single scientist could figure this out on their own.
The competing challenges of taste and growth were brought in by the muscle Biologist. The team of scientists had to include many disciplines.
Some federal agencies are considering allowing meat producers to sell their products.
The FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working together on a regulatory framework to help move these innovative products into the U.S. market, as long as we're making sure that everything can be done safely and with appropriate labeling
Each company's submission will be reviewed by the FDA separately and can't be predicted. The FDA encourages firms to have these conversations early in their product development phase.
A recent executive order from the Biden administration, which calls for advanced innovative solutions in climate change and food security, including "cultivating alternative food sources," was viewed by many in the budding cultivated food industry as a sign of increased approval. The USDA is working on labeling requirements
Some people think cultivated meat is healthier than conventional meat. Dana Hunnes is a registered Dietitian at UCLA Medical Center. People have differing opinions about meat in general.
According to Hunnes, cultivated meat doesn't appeal to vegan or vegetarian people. She says that some people don't want to eat meat because of the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Fetal bovine serum from cows has been used in the meat industry as a growth medium, but Upside Foods has developed an alternative.
Most Americans like to eat meat and it is a good source of vitamins and minerals. Cultivated meat can be changed for better nutrition. In theory, these heart-healthy fats could be absorbed into the meat if cells were fed Omega 3 fat.
Hunnes says that it is possible to create a healthier version of meat.
Without live animals to catch and spread disease, no antibiotics are needed in production facilities, and there's a decreased likelihood of food-borne illnesses.
In a cultivated meat production facility, there wouldn't be any salmonella in it. Hunnes says that it probably has a one up on the traditional meat industry.
There are unknowns because this is a new business. It's possible that unforeseen biological mechanisms could happen. As the industry moves towards commercialization, there's still a need for research.
The first cultivated meat products were made from cells. This process doesn't work well. Over the last few years, start-ups have worked to identify "immortalized" cell lines, that can be grown almost indefinitely without having to return to the animal.
A $10 million grant from the USDA was given to his lab. The industry is looking to expand to different types of meat, poultry and fish.
The climate impact of cultivated meat is not known. Climate change impact of cattle was modeled by researchers at the University of Oxford. Methane emissions from cattle are a potent greenhouse gas and cultivated meat won't make them.
The cultivated meat industry will contribute to CO2 emissions. The relative impact will be determined by whether the energy used to power the facilities comes from clean-energy or decarbonized energy.
The benefits of cultivated meat are too important to ignore. He wants to create an alternative to the current system of meat production.
He might have been able to help thousands of patients as a doctor. He believes he can have a bigger impact if he takes the leap to cultivated meat. Billions of human lives could be saved and hundreds of millions of animal lives could be saved.
He is moving forward with bringing the product to people's plates. He has signed a partnership with the co-owner and chef of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco, who's agreed to provideculinary consulting and recipe development, and once approved for marked, to serve Upside's cultivated chicken at her