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  • (joyful music)

  • - [Interviewer] So Lizzy, what are we doing here?

  • - We're here with Bosco, the pig,

  • 'cause you said I had to get over my fear of pigs.

  • But also because of this thing we read

  • about how, in theory, in the future, a pig like this

  • could feed an entire neighborhood for years.

  • Well, not this pig, but a pig.

  • We've been looking into the future of meat.

  • And what we've been finding is out there.

  • Animals raised for meat, but not slaughtered.

  • Live tissue grown cell by cell in vats.

  • And this one thought experiment

  • that really made us think about where animals

  • will fit into our needs and tastes as consumers.

  • Sit.

  • So a little background on cultured meat

  • or cultivated meat or lab-grown meat.

  • It goes by lots of names.

  • It's the process of taking cells from say a cow, a chicken,

  • or a pig, and getting them to multiply outside their body

  • in machine called a bioreactor.

  • It's a way to eat meat without actually eating animals.

  • For the record,

  • we're not talking about plant-based alternatives

  • like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.

  • Cell-based meat is actual animal tissue.

  • It's been almost a decade

  • since the first cultured meat burger

  • was taste tested on live TV.

  • - But there is quite some intense taste.

  • It's close to meat.

  • - But it's only in the past two or three years that research

  • and investment have really taken off.

  • The arguments for and against cultured meat

  • are all over the place.

  • Proponents say that it sidesteps

  • most of the livestock industry's worst problems

  • like it's land and water use,

  • pollution, greenhouse gas emissions,

  • and, of course, animal suffering.

  • Cultured meat could put a dent in those issues.

  • Critics point out that it's too early to know

  • how eco-friendly cultured meat will really be at scale.

  • And others argue

  • that instead of us spending billions of dollars

  • or more to invent meat that we feel better about eating,

  • we should just stop eating meat all together.

  • But there's a really specific question

  • tucked into that debate.

  • How might culture meat change the relationship

  • that meat consumers have with their food?

  • (techno music)

  • One answer to that question is here

  • at a company called Culture Biosciences.

  • They run a network of bioreactors for higher.

  • So say you're a lab,

  • and you need to grow protein or some engineered microbes,

  • you can send your raw materials to Culture

  • and they'll run the entire experiment for you.

  • Can you just tell us a little bit

  • about what we're looking at?

  • - Sure.

  • These are a lot of bioreactors.

  • They sort of look like blenders.

  • Blenders on life support, to some degree.

  • The metabolism here is really similar to ours.

  • It's like breathing in air, it's eating things,

  • it's growing more cells.

  • - [Lizzie] Are they always spinning?

  • - They're always spinning.

  • Yeah.

  • So it's like they always need to be mixed.

  • - [Lizzie] So say you wanna grow some pork in a bioreactor.

  • You start with a biopsy, a sampling of cells from a pig

  • taken via needle or a small incision.

  • You then use some of those cells to establish a cell bank,

  • your go-to reservoir of cells.

  • To start the culturing process,

  • you take a few cells from the bank

  • and add them to a flask

  • with all the nutrients needed to grow and divide.

  • And then you wait.

  • - At some point, you have enough density of cells

  • to go into a big bioreactor.

  • - [Lizzie] Then there's more waiting as the cells double

  • and double and double again

  • until you have enough cells to strain out

  • and turn into food.

  • This takes anywhere from two to eight weeks

  • depending on what you're growing and how you grow it.

  • - So at the end of that process,

  • you have this sort of slurry of cells, right?

  • That's what's coming out of a bioreactor.

  • It's not the most appetizing thing.

  • - The easiest food to make with that slurry

  • is something ground up like a sausage.

  • To mimic cuts of meat like a pork chop,

  • you'd need to train different types of cells

  • to grow onto a scaffold.

  • So that's all gonna take a lot more R&D.

  • But, honestly, it's just one hurdle of many.

  • This whole process needs to get more consistent, automated,

  • and way cheaper than it is now.

  • On top of that, it also needs to be safe.

  • - You have all these mammalian cells that are brewing

  • in like the perfect, literally the perfect environment

  • for a contaminant.

  • Like if you have any bacteria in there,

  • it's literally in a soup

  • that has all the food a bacteria would ever want.

  • - Another big hurdle, most animal cells

  • just don't like growing while suspended in a big vat.

  • So you need a lot of bioreactor space

  • to make just a little bit of meat.

  • - It's not a small difference.

  • And if you're an order of magnitude less productive,

  • that means you need an order of magnitude,

  • bigger facility, more food and materials.

  • - So if all those problems get solved,

  • what does the future look like?

  • And where do we, consumers, get our meat from?

  • This is where a few possible scenarios diverge.

  • (letters typing)

  • - [Will] If you think about a company like Anheuser-Busch,

  • they literally have billions of liters

  • of fermentation capacity for beer.

  • And, frankly,

  • I can see cultured meat going in that direction.

  • (letters typing)

  • - [Lizzie] One alternative to that future,

  • the craft brewery model.

  • - You can imagine there being more craft cultured meat

  • groups that are somehow specializing

  • the way that they're working with the brewing process

  • in order to make slightly different variations

  • that have different, you know, taste differently.

  • (letters typing)

  • - [Lizzie] And finally, there's the most extreme vision

  • for local meat production, home brewing.

  • You'd have a at-home bioreactor in your kitchen

  • ready to supply you

  • with fresh grown meat whenever you wanted it.

  • - It's hard to imagine, but it's plausible.

  • It would be a really challenging technical feat to pull off.

  • I believe there would have to be

  • some kind of fully automated system

  • that really takes the user

  • almost entirely out of the process

  • in order to make it so that sort of there's no user error

  • and there's no way that user can contaminate it.

  • (soft music)

  • - [Lizzie] But we wanted to offer

  • one other vision for the future.

  • It's a thought experiment

  • described by a Dutch researcher named Cor van der Weele.

  • About a decade ago,

  • Cor convened some focus groups in the Netherlands

  • to find out how consumers would grapple with cultured meat.

  • - They said, "Well, it's interesting,

  • but isn't it very unnatural?"

  • And then someone else inevitably said,

  • "Yeah, but how natural is our ordinary meat nowadays?"

  • And what you noticed was

  • there was a lot of ambivalence about both.

  • So normal meat becomes stranger

  • as cultured meat becomes more normal.

  • - Whether the meat was coming from butchers or bioreactors,

  • one thing was clear.

  • The group didn't want their meat

  • coming from one massive company.

  • And one group had a really creative workaround.

  • - [Cor] The pig in the backyard.

  • (soft music)

  • - I don't wanna be that close to you, but here you go.

  • I'm literally covered in dirt.

  • This is the local model of cultured meat,

  • except the starter cells are local,