Newcastle scientists plans to grow 'real' fillet steaks in a lab

Coming to a plate near you soon… the fillet steak grown in a Newcastle lab that might one day replace Britain’s farms

  • 3D Bio-Tissues claim their product will be indistinguishable from a high end cut
  • They claim the technology allows them to make 100 per cent lab-grown meat
  • Cells are taken from a cow and then stored in liquid before the process starts 

British scientists are aiming to grow ‘real’ steaks in a laboratory within 12 months in a breakthrough global first.

The products would be indistinguishable from a high-end cut bought from a butcher and might one day even replace the need for farms, according to 3D Bio-Tissues (3DBT).

Bosses at the firm say their technology allows them to make 100 per cent lab-grown meat – what it describes as ‘meat as you know it’ – which could be on restaurant menus within five years.

The process uses cells taken from a healthy animal, such as a cow, which are then stored in a liquid agent before being transferred to a bioreactor to grow the steak.

Scientists take cells from the cow and put the extracted DNA not a special liquid

The resulting mixture is placed into a cell bank and then into a bioreactor which grows the ‘cuts of meat’

The final step in the process is to send the ‘meat’ to the shop or restaurant for cooking

Unlike previous efforts, 3DBT claims their steak will be biologically and structurally indistinguishable from the real thing.

Scientist Dr Che Connon, 3DBT’s chief executive, said: ‘There’s probably about 20 companies or more around the world working on different [lab meat] aspects. But as far as we can tell these are mince or other forms but not whole cut.’

Geoff Baker, director of 3DBT’s parent company BSF Enterprise, says the company’s tech could revolutionise food production. He said: ‘Cell agriculture is the next most exciting technology coming along. It’ll solve food shortages, it’ll solve greenhouse gases because of the reduction of meat from farms, it’s the future of farming.’

Thousands of cells can be extracted from a living cow using a single, painless biopsy. They are then put into a bioreactor, where they are added to a chemical growth agent called ‘City-Mix’, that increases the number of cells.

These are then placed in a cell bank before being transferred to a ‘tissue bioreactor’, which stimulates the cells to turn into the structured fibres you find in muscles. The company won’t disclose exactly what happens in the bioreactors to protect its intellectual property. But this is the stage that turns the cells into the product that tastes and looks like a normal steak.

3DBT, which began as a start-up business working from Newcastle University, has already completed groundbreaking work making the world’s first human corneas – which it says could restore the sight of millions of people.

Theoretically the biopsies could be from any animal from pigs to fish and chicken

Theoretically the biopsies could be from any animal from pigs to fish and chicken. It could also be used to make leather and even one day human muscle for grafts. Another area where it could make a seismic difference is in growing the meat or skin of exotic and endangered animals to disrupt some of the illegal wildlife trade.

This could mean making crocodile-skin handbags or replicating controversial delicacies.

Baker said: ‘If you think of shark fin soup, we can make the shark fin and no one would know the difference.’

Thousands of steaks could be made from just one biopsy.

But such ‘Frankensteak’ meat manufacturing dreams are not without controversy.

Some researchers have warned lab-grown meat may need so much energy that it does more damage to the climate in the long run than farming. However, the warnings do not take into account the rise in green energy sources or that fewer cattle could significantly reduce methane emissions.

3DBT is not itself a food manufacturer, but would instead supply the technology to other groups who can then grow the meat.

BSF Enterprise listed on the London Stock Exchange last week and it is now valued at £7.7 million.

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