In the summer of 2013, a monumental landmark was achieved in culinary history. A lab-grown burger, that had cost over £150,000 to produce and 2 years to develop to maturity, was eaten by a panel of critics in London. The texture was remarkably accurate, whilst the flavor needed more work, according to those that ate it. That moment opened up a whole new world of possibilities for lovers of food and for the science behind the dishes. It was the moment that the public became aware that the sci-fi dream of lab grown meat was fast becoming a reality.
Since then, work has been progressing at an incredible rate. Multiple organizations have put their money where their mouth is and begun to fund similar efforts, in a bid to create artificial pork, chicken and even meats such as duck. The public has also been keen on the idea, with many saying that it’s the perfect solution to the ethics of meat eating. There are already waiting lists for those wanting to get their hands on these new delights.
So when a startup called Bite-Labs appeared last week, it was met with modest enthusiasm. It is seen as another company setting out their stall and offering a blended mixture of grown and normal meat. They’ll mix their meats with herbs, spices and seasonings to create distinctive salamis that they hope will tap into the market of the new and the daring. Like insects and digested coffee beans, it’s just a matter of learning to think differently.
It quickly became clear just how differently one would need to be thinking to buy Bite-Labs’ meat, however. In their own words, this is how they describe their methodology: “We start with top-quality ingredients, and time-honored recipes for the creation of fine cured meats. We mix celebrity and animal meats, grown in house through a proprietary culturing process, into curated salami blends. Starting with biopsied myoblast cells, we grow our healthy, rich, meats in Bite Labs’ own bioreactors. Our process yields high-quality, luxury protein, in a sustainable manner that eliminates the environmental and ethical concerns associated with traditional livestock production.”
It almost sounds like the usual filler text that these enthusiastic startups use. Except for one section “we mix celebrity and animal meats.” Initially, this was assumed to be a typo or some bad communication: perhaps they were creating salamis based on celebrities, artistic renditions of those in the public eye. Consumable items made in the spirit of the heroes of consumer culture. There certainly does seem to be a thematic element to it, after the “Kanye Salami” is described as one that is “heavy, and boldly flavored.”
It’s more than just a representation however: the company have since confirmed that they intend to obtain cell samples from celebrities and use these cultures with stem cells, much as the artificial burger was created. Their plan is to use the power of social media to entice celebs into this brave social and culinary experiment. Hopefully, their efforts will result in greater public awareness and a growing demand for the funding of such technologies.
Of course, until the first slice of celebrity salami hits the plate, there will be a chance that this is simply an art piece, a social experiment or a culture critique. The fact that it has been met with a startling degree of acceptance however, with many choosing to ask questions of celebrity culture and worship as opposed to the science that makes Bite Tech possible, suggests that the public may be ready for the genesis of in vitro meat.
How do you feel the growth of in vitro meat will change the food and drink world?