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Transforming from the laboratory to the dinner table: a six-course meal showcasing humane dim sum and steak frites.

Transforming from the laboratory to the dinner table: a six-course meal showcasing humane dim sum and steak frites.

Whether roasted, grilled, fried or stewed, the combination of fat, umami and texture in a premium cut of meat is difficult to recreate. With sales of plant-based meat stagnating, the hunt for cruelty-free, sustainable and meaty-tasting alternatives continues. Enter lab-grown meat. Fermented in tanks, using cells from long-dead donors, it promises a more climate- and animal-friendly form of meat for the carnivore with a conscience.

Researchers recently revealed their success in developing “beef-cultured rice”. Although it may not fully replicate the taste of a pan-fried steak, it does offer a unique and enjoyable flavor that could potentially improve emergency food options and supply rations for astronauts and military personnel. On the other hand, high-end restaurants in the US and Singapore are already serving cultured chicken to daring customers. Additionally, regulators in Singapore, Switzerland, and Israel are currently evaluating the possibility of approving more cultured food products.

If businesses are able to get the required authorizations and effectively increase their output, meat that does not involve the killing of animals may become a regular item on restaurant menus in the near future. However, what would this type of dish consist of? Biologists and chefs offer their suggestions.

Amuse bouche: pan-seared foie gras

With its rich, buttery flavour, and delicate texture, foie gras is the quintessential French delicacy – for those who can stomach the production methods. For duck- and goose-friendly foodies, the Paris-based startup Gourmey may offer an alternative: foie gras produced from cells derived from white Pekin duck eggs.

“Our team of culinary experts uses a unique method to cultivate and harvest our product in a closed environment. The end result is a rich, buttery texture with a delicate mouthfeel,” stated Nicolas Morin-Forest, co-founder and CEO of Gourmey.

Gourmey cultivated foie gras on a black plate with figsView image in fullscreen

Currently in negotiations with food safety officials in various markets, specifically the United States and Singapore, the corporation’s initial plan is to introduce their product in upscale dining establishments. “Envisioning its premiere on restaurant offerings, we can anticipate a tribute to its distinctive taste: a decadent combination of grain and toasted aromas with a delicate hint of sweetness, complemented by subtle notes of caramel, all wrapped in a smooth texture that pleasantly melts in the mouth,” commented Forest.

“This creates new possibilities for traditional dishes with a contemporary spin, like the renowned tournedos Rossini. Our handcrafted foie gras can be expertly pan-seared and served alongside beef tournedos, truffle slices, and a decadent madeira sauce.”

Starter: combination of pork and chicken dumplings.

Many businesses are developing cell-based chicken and pork products, but increasing production on a large scale is still difficult. This is why “blended” options – which mix cultured meat with plant-based proteins – may be the initial approach for most companies.

The main focus of London-based Hoxton Farms is not on increasing muscle mass, but on developing pork fat through the growth of pig stem cells in bioreactors. This fat can then be combined with pea or soy protein to produce plant-based meat alternatives that have a more authentic meat taste. Co-founder Ed Steele explains that fat is crucial in providing the sensory experience associated with eating meat, as it holds the key to its flavor.

A Xiao Long Bao dumpling on a white porcelain spoon

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His no-kill menu would feature xiao long bao soup dumplings – paper thin wrappers traditionally filled with pork and a pocket of fragrant soup – although this version would incorporate pork fat into the dumpling wrappers, the broth, and a plant-based filling, to create a “flavour explosion”.

Mixing small portions of lab-grown meat with other components is another method to consider. According to American chef and entrepreneur Philip Saneski, who specializes in cultured meat, incorporating it into dishes such as a roulade could be a creative and sophisticated way to present it on a high-end menu.

His menu would feature garlic-rice-stuffed chicken, wrapped in crispy yuba (tofu skin) to imitate the crunch of real chicken skin.

Initial dish: Galician-style octopus.

Improving the sustainability of seafood is a top concern. One specific focus is on octopus meat, which is often avoided due to ethical concerns about the high level of intelligence possessed by these creatures. Cell4Food, a company based in Portugal, is currently working on a product that could serve as a substitute for chopped octopus in traditional dishes like pulpa a la Gallega. According to Dr. Stella Child, a manager at The Good Food Institute, octopus meat does not have the same texture as a traditional beef steak, making it potentially easier to create alternative options.

Several other companies are currently developing methods to cultivate various fish species such as trout, sea bass, eel, and sushi-grade salmon. According to Child, a major obstacle is the varying textures and compositions of each species’ flesh. Additionally, due to the extensive use of mammalian cells in medical research, our knowledge of cultivating animal cells is far greater than that of fish cells.

Choice of main dish: steak tartare or small steak with french fries.

Ten years ago, the first beef burger grown in a lab was cooked and eaten in front of eager journalists. The scientists responsible for its creation have since started a company called Mosa Meat and are close to introducing cultured beef burgers to the market in Singapore, once they receive regulatory approval.

steak tartare on a white plate with garnish

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According to Tim van de Rijdt, Mosa Meat’s chief marketing officer, one feedback we received from individuals who tried the earlier versions was that it was slightly dry. As a result, we have incorporated fat into the recipe, which adds flavor and enhances the texture of the product. In addition, we have developed a raw version, specifically a steak tartare.

Some companies are prioritizing the production of smaller steak portions. For example, Aleph Farms in Israel aims to introduce a “petit steak” made from black Angus cow cells, which is only a few millimeters thick. This new product may be offered with fries as a modern take on the traditional French dish, steak frites.

Lab-grown steak on a plate with chips and sweetcorn and garnishView image in fullscreen

Due to the excellent features of the product, such as its easy cooking and juicy texture, the steak can also be utilized in making dishes that are typically challenging to prepare with standard cuts. Didier Toubia, the CEO of Aleph Farms, stated that they aim to revive traditional dishes that are becoming less popular due to the time and effort required to prepare them. For example, they could create pulled-beef dishes with a significantly reduced cooking time.

Cheese course: lo-cow camembert

Vegans often express a strong desire for a gooey, creamy cheese that they miss the most. While there are many vegan substitutes available, it can be challenging to replicate the taste and texture of dairy cheese due to the use of different proteins. Standing Ovation, a company based in Paris, is among those attempting to address this issue by utilizing precision fermentation to produce the primary proteins found in milk, known as caesins. This method involves using microbial hosts as “cell factories” to create animal proteins.

According to Romain Chayot, co-founder and managing director of Standing Ovation, caesins make up 80% of the proteins found in milk. The elasticity in mozzarella is due to caesins, while the air pockets in ice cream are a result of caesins. The smooth texture in camembert is also due to caesins that have been broken down by bacteria during fermentation. For a thick and protein-rich yogurt, caesins are essential as they have the ability to coagulate. In all forms of dairy products, caesins provide the desired functionality for consumers.

The company has effectively produced three out of the four types of caesins present in cow’s milk. These caesins have been used to create various types of cheese such as camembert, cream cheese, and cheddar. Additionally, they have also been used in the production of yoghurt, coffee creamer, and sour cream. The company is currently working on developing caesins from other sources such as buffalo, sheep, and goat milk. They have also formed partnerships with dairy companies like Bel Group, known for producing Babybel cheese. The company’s goal is to obtain approval from regulatory authorities for their cow-based caesins in the US by 2025 and in Europe the following year.

Dessert: baked alaska

The fond memories of indulging in a refreshing and smooth ice cream enveloped in a mouthful of toasted meringue. While it may seem challenging to create a vegan version without using eggs and cream, advancements in precision fermentation have made it possible to produce the essential proteins found in these ingredients.

Onego Bio, a company based in Finland, is increasing their production of ovalbumin, the primary protein found in egg whites, by utilizing fungal cells. According to CEO Maija Itkonen, this form of ovalbumin has an identical nutritional profile and taste to that of chicken eggs. Additionally, it possesses all the functional properties that make eggs unique, such as foaming, coagulating, emulsifying, and binding other ingredients.

Additionally, it has formed a collaboration with Perfect Day, a biotechnology company in the United States that utilizes precision fermentation to create a milk protein called whey. This whey, which is produced without the use of animals, is currently being used in ice cream that is sold in the US market.

Source: theguardian.com