Cellular agriculture is an interdisciplinary scientific field drawing from several disciplines such as synthetic biology, genetic engineering, molecular biology, tissue engineering, biochemistry and food science to design organisms capable of producing a wide variety of agricultural products. Cellular agricultures primary focus is designing organisms capable of building relevant proteins, fats, and other tissues for the production of animal products. For example, animal products made through cellular agriculture include: beef, poultry, fish, dairy, egg, collagen, and gelatin. There are two categories of cellular agricultural products: cellular and acellular. Cellular products are made from whole cells — living or dead — and include products like beef, poultry and fish. Acellular products are made from products that are made by cells and do not include any living or once living cells. Examples of acellular products include: omega-3 fatty acids, gelatin, casein, and ovalbumin. Cellular agriculture is a technology that provides opportunities to improve upon trade-offs of traditional agricultural practices and methods for meat production such as animal welfare, environmental impact, and nutritional value.
According to Dr. Mark Post of Maastricht University, who created the first cultured beef burger in 2013, it takes 440,000 cows to produce 1,750,000 burgers; the same amount of burgers could be cultured from the cells of one cow using cellular agriculture techniques. Proponents of cellular agriculture highlight this potential for reduction in animal suffering as compared to traditional livestock practices. Erin Kim, communication director of New Harvest, believes "There is simply no more room left to pack more animals onto land, or meat onto the breast of a boiler chicken".
In 2017, the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recognized that the cellular agriculture industry, especially brewery-based in-vitro animal products, is set for high growth in the future due to recent technological advancements. The process of culturing products through cellular agriculture involves extracting and isolating self-renewing cells such as embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells and/or introducing genes into organisms capable of producing the desired product such as milk proteins, collagen, or muscle tissues, and letting these cells grow in a bioreactor.
In 1912, one of the first scientists developing what would later become cellular agriculture Ross Harrison wrote in his paper titled, The cultivation of tissues in extraneous media as a method of morphogenetic study, that "The fact that tissues of the higher animals may be cultivated outside the body has been heralded in the news papers and magazines as a notable, if not revolutionary, scientific discovery".
Harrison pioneered the first methods for the in vitro cultivation of cellular tissues grown outside of animal organisms. Harrison's methods were originally developed to study the conditions promoting differentiation of nerve fibers, and his techniques were later were modified to study the effects of salts and various animal extracts on animal tissue growth independent and separate from the animal organism. Harrison continued his research, trying to keep tissues alive and grow before coming to the conclusion that optimal survival and growth could be achieved by continuously supplying the tissues with growth medium while constantly removing waste products; and the first concept of a bioreactor was born.
In 1939, laboratories of the Rockefeller Institute for medical research produced the second major technological breakthrough for cultivating tissues independent of animals. Researchers in the labs of the Rockefeller Institute, most notably Dr.Raymond C. Parker, designed and described many new systems for culturing large numbers of tissue fragments. Pioneering single flask culturing by making two separate chambers within the a single flask; a reservoir chamber that holds the culture medium and a culture chamber that holds tissue fragments. The researchers were able to control oxygenation of chambers within the flask by connecting a gas line to the flask. These techniques and culturing systems developed by scientists at the Rockefeller Institute for medical research allowed scientists to begin culturing tissue fragments in large quantities for the first time using a single flask system that grows tissues on a thin layer of nutritional medium with sufficient and constantly circulating oxygen.
Wet lab technologies
- Cell libraries
Dry lab technologies
- Vector drawing software
- Computer aided design software
- Primer calculation software
- Informatics and data analysis software
Cellular agriculture and the environment
According to a study published in the Environmental Science and technology journal analyzing the environmental impact of cultured meat compared to traditional livestock meat production, cultured meat has a significantly lower environmental impact. The 2011 study shows how cultured meat can improve upon traditional European livestock agriculture by reducing energy consumption by 7-45%, using 99% less land, 82-96% less water, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 78-96%.
A later 2015 study titled "Anticipatory Life Cycle Analysis of in Vitro Biomass Cultivation for Cultured Meat Production in the United States" further examined cellular agriculture for meat production with less hopeful results for the environment. They found cellular agriculture uses more energy than previously thought due to the industrial nature of cultured meat production. Using cellular agricultural techniques in 2015 the study found that culturing beef and poultry products was using approximately up to 35% more energy than traditional agricultural techniques. Researchers made their energy use (approximately 43% natural gas, 33% coal, and 16% from the electricity grid) and green house gas emission estimates based on the average energy requirements and green house gas emissions of breweries across the US in 2003 as reported by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Greenhouse gas emissions
The same study found differing greenhouse gas emissions between cultured meat varieties. Beef was shown to result in about 76% less green house gas emissions due to no methane production as a by-product of cow digestion, while pork and poultry had higher energy requirements and more green house gas emissions when compared to traditional livestock agriculture production.
The study demonstrated significantly less land use — roughly half the amount of traditional European livestock agriculture — needed for production due to not requiring animal feed to produce cultured meat products.
This reduction in land requirements is due to the improvements in the biological efficiency of cultured meat made possible through cellular agriculture. Traditional livestock require food and energy to grow biological parts that are not the primary desire of livestock farmers. For example, animals have to make things such as skin, internal organs, and hair, while meat grown in-vitro only grows what ever product is desired; usually skeletal muscle tissue in the case of cultured meat.
By growing meat in-vitro, not having the need to grow skin, hair, organs, circulatory system, etc.., comes at the cost of having to regulate temperature, disperse and introduce nutrients and oxygen into the tissue evenly, and control for any pathogens that can infect the tissue. This is all done inside of the bioreactors used to grow cultured meat products which requires high amounts of industrial energy as detailed in Carolyn Mattick's paper "Cellular agriculture: The coming revolution in food production" published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on January 8th, 2018.
Some scientists believe as the technology supporting cellular agricultural progresses, the industry will require fewer inputs and less maintenance of the bioreactors that makes products like cultured meat possible, and the full extent of environmental implications of cellular agriculture will be realized.
Impact on oceans and fresh water systems
Aside from energy and use requires to produce products using cellular agriculture, there is also no need for the use of pesticides and herbicides. Less pesticide and herbicide use made possible by cellular agriculture will help to reduce ocean eutrophication due to excessive amounts of nutritionist flowing into the worlds oceans through agricultural run off, and play a significant tole in the restoration oceanic dead zones (low oxygen areas) back to productive marine ecosystems.
PETA offers $1 million prize for cultured chicken meat
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) offered a $1 million prize to the first company to produce, and bring to market, cultured chicken meat that is price competitive in at least 10 states and is indistinguishable from real chicken meat by June 30th, 2012. PETA extended the deadline to March 2014, but the prize was never claimed by anyone.
Van Eelen Willem Frederik applies for first cultured meat production patent
Van Eelen Willem Frederik, known as the godfather of cultured meat, filed and was later awarded the first patent for cultured meat production. His patent was titled "Industrial production of meat using cell culture methods" and was awarded grant status on September 18th, 2007.
Commercial in-vitro cultured meat production gets FDA approval
In 1995, the Food and Drug Administration approves in-vitro cultured meat production for commercial purposes in the United States.
Winston Churchill comments on cellular agriculture
Winston Churchill publishes an article in Strand Magazine titled 'Fifty Years Hence' and writes: "Microbes, which at present convert the nitrogen of the air into the proteins by which animals live, will be fostered and made to work under controlled conditions, just as yeast is now. New strains of microbes will be developed and made to do a great deal of our chemistry for us. With a greater knowledge of what are called hormones, i.e. the chemical messengers in our blood, it will be possible to control growth. 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. Synthetic food will, of course, also be used in the future. Nor need the pleasures of the table be banished. That gloomy Utopia of tabloid meals need never be invaded. The new foods will from the outset be practically indistinguishable from the natural products, and any changes will be so gradual as to escape observation."
First tissue culturing techniques are developed
Ross Harrison pioneered the first methods for the in vitro cultivation of cellular tissues grown outside of animal organisms.
First animal tissue recored to survive outside of the animal organism
Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon and biologist at the Rockefeller institute in New York, and his colleagues ran experiments from 1911 to 1946 growing chick heart muscle tissues in petri dishes. Their cellular cultures were shown to outlive normal chick muscle tissue cells (over two months) helping formulate the idea of cellular immortality and contributing greatly to cellular aging research.
Agathe Foussat and Pauline Canteneur
Cellular agriculture: a way to feed tomorrow’s Smart City? - L'Atelier BNP Paribas
Cellular agriculture: The coming revolution in food production.
A Closer Look at Cellular Agriculture and the Processes Defining It - AgFunderNews
Future Food - In Vitro Meat
'World's First' Lab-Grown Meatball Looks Pretty Damn Tasty
Why This Cardiologist Is Betting That His Lab-Grown Meat Startup Can Solve the Global Food Crisis
Why use air-lift bioreactors?
Lab-made ‘foie gras’: Japan firm claims product could be commercially viable by 2021
Montrose T. Burrows
A method of furnishing a continuous supply of new medium to a tissue culture In Vitro
Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World
Ross G. Harrison
The cultivation of tissues in extraneous media as a method of morpho-genetic study
Cellular agriculture – an introduction
World's first lab-grown burger eaten
Telugu, B.P., Tuomisto, H.L., Roberts, R.M., Landis, A.E., Mattick, C.S., Wilks, M., Phillips, C.J.C., Tucker, C.A., Haastrup, P., Genovese, N.J., Domeier, T.L., Ellis, M.J., Allenby, B.R., Amber Dance
Engineering the animal out of animal products
World Livestock 2011 - Livestock in food security
Documentaries, videos and podcasts
Bioprocessing Cell Culture Overview â Two Minute Tuesday Video
September 14, 2016
Could Lab-Grown Meat Make Eating Human O.K.? (Part 2 of 3)
January 25, 2018
Could We Evolve to Not Eat Meat? (Part 3 of 3)
February 1, 2018
How Will Cellular Agriculture Be Regulated? with Vince Sewalt | New Harvest 2017
December 14, 2017
New Harvest 2016: Beef, Pork, and Chicken from Cell Culture
August 23, 2016
New Harvest 2016: The Next Era of Food Fermentation
August 22, 2016
On Meat without Animals: Considering Cellular Agriculture
January 17, 2017
The Elements of Cultured Meat: Bioreactors 101 with Marianne Ellis | New Harvest 2017
December 12, 2017
Tomorrow's Food: Cultured Meat
September 28, 2016
You Think You Know What Meat Is... But You Have No Idea (Part 1 of 3)
January 18, 2018
San Francisco, CA
No-chicken egg whites
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA
Lab-grown "texture" molecules such as gelatin
New York, NY
Non-profit research institute
San Francisco, CA
No-cow dairy milk
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- Cluster: Synthetic biologyA cluster of topics related to synthetic biology.
- Genetic engineeringDirect manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology
- Molecular biologyBranch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity
- Tissue engineeringTissue Engineering is focused on the development of tissue and organ substitutes in a laboratory.
- VeganismVeganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products
- AgricultureCultivation of life forms for food, fiber, biofuel and other products used to sustain life
- Perfect Day FoodsPerfect Day Foods (formerly Muufri) engineered yeast capable of producing the proteins found in cows milk. They use these proteins to make their own line of animal-free dairy products.
- Clara FoodsClara Foods is a biotechnology company founded by two New Harvest community members David Anchel and Arturo Elizondo in 2014. The company is based out of San Francisco, California and manufactures animal- free proteins using using yeast bio-fermentation techniques fore use in food products.
- Finless FoodsFinless Foods is a biotechnology company producing cultured marine animal food products through implementing cellular agriculture and manufacturing technologies.
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