‘Slaughter-Free’ Lab Meat Grown in Space for the First Time

The lyrics to “Hey Diddle Diddle” may finally need to be updated because lab-grown meat has been produced in space for the first time ever. And while using a “3D tissue platform” to grow a batch of bovine cells aboard the International Space Station (ISS) isn’t exactly a real-life version of the cow jumping over the Moon, it’s probably the closest we’re going to get for a while so let’s enjoy it. Both the precedent and the new kind of food.

In the above video announcement, which was posted on October 7 and comes via The Guardian, Aleph Farms, an Israeli tech startup, proclaims the recent advancement in lab-grown meat research as “a milestone that demonstrates [the company’s] capability of producing slaughter-free meat anywhere.” The video goes on to note that this milestone stands as proof that lab-grown meat can be made in “the harshest conditions—with no dependency on either land or availability of water resources.”

While it may seem like Aleph Farms is looking to corner the theoretical interplanetary space vessel/Martian colony meat market, the goal of producing “beef” in even the harshest conditions is really meant to signal the viability of this technology working here on Earth. The planet is running out of the resources necessary for breeding domesticated cattle — according to multiple sources — and finding a way to sustainably produce meat will doubtlessly be an important achievement in the search for a method to maintain creature comforts without destroying the worldwide ecosystem.

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Can you hear the sizzle? ???

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As far as the tech is concerned, Aleph Farms definitely has one foot in the future. (No wonder the company made its announcement using the famous Neil Armstrong quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.) The company grows the meat by taking a small amount of cells from an animal via biopsy and then places it in a “broth of nutrients.” The cells subsequently multiply and form the same type of edible tissue that’s naturally produced in the animal’s body.

The details of the process are mad sci-fi to say the least. Not only are the edible tissue cells grown in the lab, but different types of cells, including fat cells, blood cells, and muscle cells, are all grown together, simultaneously. The amalgam of various cell types is also grown on a scaffold, which allows them to form a “three dimensional muscle tissue.” The Wikipedia page for Aleph Farms says that “a replicated blood vessel network” also needs to be created in order to grow the meat, which sounds both astounding and gag-inducing.

Looking forward, it seems that Aleph Farms is going to do its best to feed the rapidly growing human population, which it says is predicted to reach “10 billion individuals by 2050.” And while that number seems highly debatable considering the drop in birth rates in countries like the U.S., finding a way to sustainably grow meat does seem like the way of the future. Besides, parts of the world like the Amazon are already suffering due to expending the resources required to raise cattle, so now does seem like the best time to get moving on this tech. Even if that means moving at 4.76 miles per second 254 miles above Earth’s surface.

What do you think of this meat grown aboard the International Space Station? Are you excited to masticate some artificial tissues, or are you thinking you’ll just become a vegetarian to help save the planet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Feature image: NASA 

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