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Would you eat meat grown in a lab? Meet the chemical engineer who thinks it could be in supermarkets within years

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Dr Ellis’ aim is to make cultured meat mainstream. Although there are companies already producing it, it is extremely costly This is why a key aspect of her work is scaling up production to make the meat affordable.

CHLOE HAMILTON: ‘Dr Marianne Ellis’s lab couldn’t be further from a farmyard. Instead of haystacks and manure, it’s full of test tubes and measuring cylinders. Her workers shun wellies and warm clothing in favour of white coats and safety goggles, and they drive microscopes, not tractors. And yet there is one way in which the two places are identical: they both produce meat. Dr Ellis, of the University of Bath, a chemical engineer, is the UK’s leading expert in tissue engineering and believes meat grown under a microscope could provide the world with an alternative source of protein.

In the lab, Dr Ellis and her team take stem cells from animals, feed them a mixture of glucose, vitamins and minerals, and amino acids, put them in a bioreactor using blades of grass as scaffolds to attach to, and watch them grow… So far cultured meat has been turned, by researchers in other parts of the world, into meatballs, burgers, and chicken nuggets but Dr Ellis has high hopes of, one day, progressing to steak… As novel as it may seem now, Dr Ellis’s aim is to make cultured meat mainstream. Although there are companies already producing it, it is extremely costly.

The world’s first lab meat burger was grown by Mosa Meats in the Netherlands in 2013. It cost $300,000 (£228,000) to research and produce. This is why a key aspect of Dr Ellis’s work is scaling up production to make the meat affordable. The team’s bioreactors allow them to reduce the space and food needed to grow the cells, thus reducing the costs involved. As for how long it’ll be before we see cultured meats in the fridge aisle of our nearest Sainsbury’s, Dr Ellis predicts, tentatively, four or five years, although we could see it in restaurants before then – possibly, even, in a year or two…

Whether or not cultured meat will pass the vegan test, though, is another matter. “There’s actually a large number of vegetarians and vegans involved in our community who would eat it and are really driving forward cultured meat as an alternative protein source,” says Dr Ellis. “But it’s down to the individual”.’ SOURCE…

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