Seeing the need to balance the ethics of using animals as a food source and a burgeoning planetary population, researchers have been studying ways to grow animal tissue in the lab, to produce a food source that doesn’t rely on animals for production. This endeavor has seen major advances in recent years, and what might have seemed like science-fiction just a few years ago might very well be grocery store reality within a decade.
The race to produce lab-cultured protein products is being undertaken by a number of companies, such as Clara Foods, Memphis Meats, Muufri, and New Harvest. Clara foods is working to produce a hen-free egg white, considered by the company to be a "perfect" food, free of fat, cholesterol and carbohydrates, and expects their product to be available within the next few years.
NPO New Harvest’s CEO, Isha Datar, described their process of culturing lab-grown beef at a recent conference: individual cells are taken from the muscle tissue of a host animal, and cultured so that each cell begins to divide and form into a structure of microscopic myotubes, that begin to form small strands of muscle-like tissue.
Each donor cell can replicate into trillions of copies of itself, allowing for very little material needed to be harvested from an animal. Their process was used to create a hamburger, where it was showcased and eaten in a 2013 television special. The burger cost $360,000 USD to create, but New Harvest is working toward making the process more affordable. Datar feels that products like his may be available on store shelves in five to fifteen years.