What does a $300,000 burger taste like? Meat. The first lab-grown burger took two years and 20,000 strands of muscle tissue to produce. But with rapid advances in cultivated meat processing technology, non-animal meat products can now take a lot shorter to prepare. And cost much less.
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Collect healthy cells for your production starter kit
Like live animals, cultured meat starts with a cell. The first time, cells are extracted through a biopsy or from an egg in the case of poultry products. Isolate the tissue cells that make up the end product, such as fats or muscle tissue.
This starter cell kit can be stored indefinitely in a cell bank, producing multiple cycles of meat cultivation without further extraction.
Add nutrients to grow the cells in a bioreactor
Bioreactors are fundamental cultured meat processing technology. Place the cells in a bioreactor where they will divide and multiply, just like in the natural process. The cell cultures feed on a medium of nutrients, including fibers and amino acids, fats, and vitamins. The mix is based on natural feed products extracted from crops, yeasts, and minerals.
This phenomenon mimics the organic process but cuts the growth period significantly. Depending on the final product, harvesting typically takes four to six weeks from immersion in the medium.
Avoid cell aggregation in the cultivation step
The bioreactor cultivates the sourced cells, providing energy and a conducive temperature. But failing to control the process risks depleting the growth factors and degrading the cells. The cultivator needs to keep a uniform environment for the cell population to thrive.
Another manufacturing challenge at this stage is the lumping of cells. Aggregation hinders development, causing cells to die out.
Form the ingredients into natural lookalikes
Shaping the mature cells into standard dimensions presents a key challenge for cultured meat processing technology. One technique is to form a scaffolding from natural materials like textured vegetable protein, allowing the splitting cells in the bioreactor to grow onto it.
Another method is to mold the material following cultivation. The product is then treated with coloring and seasoning techniques to bring it closer to a meat cut derived from live animals.
Different cultivated meat processing technology to achieve the right texture
The test of cultivated meat is how faithfully it can reproduce the textures of the farmed products. One solution is to extrude the cultivated ingredients. The pressure applied to the cell material develops a more fibrous consistency reminiscent of meat products from slaughtered animals.
An alternative way is to model the separate meat strands and create the product in 3D using additive manufacturing equipment.