The idea that meat can be replicated in a lab poses a great opportunity in addressing current, unsustainable meat consumption and simultaneously tackling concerns over animal welfare. Since its first introduction in 2013, Mosa Meat has made significant changes to their production process and have since partnered and been sponsored by numerous firms to allow the product to eventually reach consumers. As an animal lover myself, the idea that meat can practically be cloned is both exciting but overwhelming. Social attitudes towards its ‘artificial’ nature and its affiliated ethical concerns may counteract its adoption into society. Overall, lab-grown meat such as Mosa Meat does seem to present itself as a sustainable source of ‘real’ meat.
Aiming to produce the world’s first “slaughter-free hamburger”, Mosa Meat is a type of clean meat whose mission is to reshape global food systems. Despite not yet being commercialized, the European technology company is continuing to upscale production and decrease costs to make it a ‘burger of the future’, globally accessible and at an affordable cost. Concerns over mass meat consumption has driven the brand to turn to solutions targeting meat production, by leading with lab-grown meat alternatives. A selection of 33,000 myosatellite cells are harvested from a cow under anesthesia and cultured to produce 80,000 burgers just from this one sample. Using a growth medium containing vitamins and nutrients, the maturation of beef can be artificially achieved over a period of nine weeks.
Mosa Meat presents an exciting new market, as it isn’t like the conventional plant-based alternative. Addressing issues such as the unwillingness to switch to mock-meat, the preservation of beef’s natural taste, texture, elasticity and so forth is able to cater to carnivores without the need to raise and slaughter cows. With aims to reach markets in the next following years, the question of the type of packaging may contribute to its overall sustainability, however MOSA meat has not mentioned such details as of yet.
In its initial attempt in 2013, the cost of making a single burger was €250,000. The growth medium also required fetal bovine serum, which required the cardiac puncture of a bovine fetus, misaligning with the brand’s cruelty free reputation. As of 2020, their end-of-year statement reported that they are still working to produce a growth medium that will be completely animal component-free. Despite the ability to downscale livestock farming for cattle, the need to harvest myosatellite cells still presents tied environmental consequences.
The nine week growth process requires a controlled environment and regular intervention by scientists to produce its final product. As far as the company’s energy use, there is no information on any renewable energy used in the production of the burger. Though, Mosa Meat has taken steps in adopting technological innovations in partnership with Lowercarbon capital, wherein they fund for ‘planet healing technologies and research’. Furthermore, their partnership with Nutreco - a Dutch producer of animal nutrition, the growth serum is sourced within the Netherlands. Looking further into Nutreco however, their global production chain likely indicates that the nutrients used in the growth serum are probably sourced overseas. As a result, the global scale production chain raises issues regarding overall sustainability and embedded exploitation as an aspect of beef culture.
When acknowledging the comparative land use, water use and energy use associated in the culture of meat, Mosa meat presents itself as an evidently greener alternative to conventional meat production. According to a study at Oxford, clean meat has the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 96%, largely supporting the brand's mission to address climate change. Furthermore, clean meat such as Mosa meat has the potential to reduce foodborne illness by avoiding cross-contamination that usually occurs during the slaughter process, as well as control fat levels of the meat produced for an overall healthier choice.
Led by a team of 62 in Maastricht, combined efforts of biologists, engineers, researchers, vegans, veggies and meat lovers provide a holistic and comprehensive approach in developing and commercializing Mosa Meat. Having a comparatively small workforce enables companies to integrate voices and address concerns more easily and furthermore, the Netherlands's arguably upholds and enforces stricter labour laws that enhance its overall sustainability. Though with its many partnerships such as Nutreco, implicit forms of labour exploitation or environmental degradation may be concealed in the production process.