Is lab grown Kangaroo meat part of our future diet?
Would you eat meat grown in a lab?
Two Sydney entrepreneurs are very much hoping the answer is yes.
George Peppou and Tim Noakesmith from VOW, a food company backed by science, have developed the world's first Kangaroo meat, cultivated not on a farm or in the wild, but in a laboratory in Western Sydney.
How is works is a little bit of a mind bender, but the principles are explained by VOW Co-Founder George Peppou.
VOW takes neutral stem cells, harvested from biopsy samples from a live animal about the size of an almond.
The stem cells are immature and haven't yet decided what type of cell to become.
The neutral stem cells are placed in a nutrient-rich solution and placed in a controlled cultivator, a warm environment which tricks the cells into thinking they're still in the body of the animal.
"Everything that cells inside the animal have, is present in here so mainly that's sugar and salt and amino acids which are the building blocks of protein as well as some little molecules which tell the cells to grow and keep growing." VOW Co-Founder George Peppou explains.
More nutrients are then added which grows the neutral cells into muscle cells, fat cells and connective tissue that are mixed together to grow into final meat products.
The cells need to be "fed" every few days, a process takes around four to six weeks.
The end product looks kind of like the mince we are used to buying in the supermarket.
Developers of the technology believe vegans and vegetarians could quickly come on board because the kangaroo or any other animal the sample is taken from, isn't slaughtered in the process.
Tim Noakesmith believes this lab is where the future of food production lies, with population growth and demand for protein on our increasingly crowded planet, putting the squeeze on agricultural land.
"It's pretty insane, but it's super important, it's incredibly important." He says.
"We've reached the scale capacity in terms of creating food using traditional animal agriculture and we see that meat consumption is going to be rising and rising over coming decades."
"We see this as a solution to the problems that are going to arise from the need to meet the demands of those markets." says VOW Founder Tim Noakesmith.
The possibilities for this kind of technology are endless.
Once a cell is taken from an animal, theoretically the cells can "live on" for the next century or longer, producing an endless supply of meat.
Animals we've never eaten, could be on the menu. So too, combinations of meats, blended for flavour or nutritional value.
Scientists have got the mince, burger and nugget structures under their belts, but globally they're yet to master the cuts of meat we're used to eating, such as a chop, a T-bone, or a chicken drumstick.
"It will be possible and we're seeing it happen today so there are companies who are focused on how to we create 3D structures in meat." says VOW's Tim Noakesmith.
"The first products in terms of commercial products we sell of the line will be these things like chicken nuggets and burgers that we talk about, but in the future we will see massive innovations happening that allow us to create structures, not just that we see in steak today but completely new structures." He says
One stumbling block this technology may encounter is the "ick factor."
If consumers can't get past the unusual way their meat is brought into the world, the potential for this technology will be dead in the water.
Tim Noakesmith says it's all about how the product is pitched to meat-eaters.
"I think the best way to think about it is the same way we cultivate plants, you take a clipping from a plant you cultivate it in a nutrient rich environment where its very much the same as where it was before, and it continues to grow more plants of its kind we're doing exactly the same thing with cells." He says.
The start up, has received the backing of the NSW Government and a $25,000 dollar grant.
"It's right that we should invest in new technology that will allow Australia to take a competitive position in future markets." The NSW Minister for Western Sydney and Jobs Stuart Ayres says.
Would the minister eat it?
"If it takes good.. I'll have a go at it." he laughs.
The world's first meat burger grown by a scientist in a lab was unveiled in the United Kingdom in 2013.
In the six years since, scientists across the globe have created chicken nuggets, are working on Wagyu beef as well as fish and other animal products.
But no country has approved this meat for human consumption.
In North Parramatta, the world's first Kangaroo mince is almost ready to eat.
VOW is just waiting on the tick from from food authories here, before humans are allowed to tuck in.
But the wait shouldn't be too long.
"You can be walking in to the superrmaket and buying this as soon as the end of 2022." VOW Co-Founder George Peppou says with a smile.
"It all started in Western Sydney."
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