What is Cell Cultured Food?
Cultivated meat, which is also known as cultured meat, is genuine animal meat (including seafood and organ meats) that is produced using tissue engineering techniques to cultivate animal cells in vitro. This production method eliminates the need to raise and farm animals for food. This field of the food industry (cellular agriculture) has the potential to address animal welfare, food insecurity, human health and the substantial global environment problems created by meat production and is estimated to constitute 35% of global meat consumption by 2040. We are witnessing the reinvention of fermentation which pushes the boundaries of biology by creating new foods and medicines that will be more precise, healthy and more sustainable.
Cell Cultured Foods – the benefits
For many, choosing alternative proteins at mealtimes is a simple decision based solely on animal welfare reasons. With cultured meat, which requires a biopsy from a confined but sedated and anaesthetised animal, no animal involvement is necessary. ‘Cellular agriculture’ will allow the consumption of real, authentic animal products without ever having to kill an animal. The increasing quality availability of humane meat and meat analogues over time will lead many to forgo slaughtered meat simply for much improved animal welfare.
Cell culture alternative meat/fish sources do not have the antibiotics or added hormones often incorporated in traditional meat, and some have the ability to have a tailored nutritional profile. Research has found that switching from beef to cultured beef had little effect on diet related mortality; in this case, the same end product is simply created through a different production route.
Aside from welfare and health reasons for choosing alternative proteins, the main decisive factor in conversation today is sustainability, with cultured foods having the potential to reduce waste, land usage, water usage, deforestation and emissions compared with conventional animal agriculture. With a third of all food production lost via leaky supply chains, discarding of unwanted catches of fish to the sea or spoilage, food loss is a key contributor to global food insecurity.
Livestock farming causes a variety of environmental burdens, and the major contributor to these burdens is beef. The replacement of beef with more resource-efficient alternatives would be ecologically beneficial. Lower water use is another factor that will be especially important in hot, dry climates. Although currently, emissions from cultured beef show only modest reductions, the production of one tonne of cultured beef could require as much as 90% less water than one tonne of conventional beef.
Singapore has recently become the first country to allow the sale of cultured meat but economically viable cellular agriculture technology will be ready to come to market in 2022 which could hugely disrupt our food systems given how much of our resources are devoted to animal and seafood products and the role they play in our diets. Singapore is an example of a country that relies mostly on other nations for food, the Covid-19 crisis exposed the instability of worldwide supply chains, motivating the Singaporean Government to push for the production of 30 per cent of its own food by 2030, up from less than 10 per cent today. The same trend may soon be followed by other countries pushed by recent world events, and alternative proteins are crucial in achieving this aim in places where intensive farming is not possible.
Additionally, consolidation within the meat industry has increasingly concentrated power and profits in the hands of a few companies at the expense of farmers, communities and consumers making meat production vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. These factors have sparked interest and investment into alternative proteins made using fermentation technologies and beyond traditional plant-based formulations.
Texture Problems associated with Cell Cultured Foods
The texture of traditional meat or fish has always been the most important factor in determining consumer acceptance, and the same is true for cell cultured alternatives. For a consumer branching out to try a new, unfamiliar protein source, it is vital that its texture is favourable especially when it must have the ‘same-as’ sensory experience. Consumers are quick to show their disapproval if the taste, texture and cooking properties of a traditionally farmed meat or fish alternative fall short of the real thing and whilst consumers might be willing to try cultured or fermented products that avoid animal cruelty they will not be willing to compromise on taste and texture.
How Texture Analysis can help in Cell Cultured Foods
As with all alternative products, the proof is in the testing. The product will be rejected if the texture (and flavour) is not true to consumer expectation. That’s where texture analysis comes in. Once the alternative product is formulated it will need to be compared with the ‘gold standard’ product, who’s texture analysis fingerprint will have been created as the ideal textural quality. If the replacement product is in any way different to the traditional product’s texture it may well be back to the drawing board. Can you risk launching a new product that doesn’t measure up in every sense? The use of cultured/fermented products offers a perfect solution to a more sustainable food production system. Consumers are ready to embrace this trend, but will only do so if taste, texture and health remain uncompromised so you’ll need to make sure that texture analysis is part of your product development process.
Stable Micro Systems manufactures instruments that measure the tensile and compressional properties of raw ingredients, individual materials and finished products. It is important to measure the textural properties of food to ensure they match the expectations of a consumer. As with any manufacturing innovation the end-product must go through a quality control process to assess its mechanical (and sensorial) properties. A Texture Analyser is a crucial part of this procedure, giving a reliable way to test products by applying a choice of compression, tension, extrusion, adhesion, bending or cutting tests to measure their physical or textural properties e.g. firmness, stickiness, crispiness and compressibility, to name but a few.
A range of Texture Analysers are available varying in maximum force capacity and height options suited to the requirements of the application.
A vast range of probes and fixtures can be attached to the instruments depending upon the product/material to be tested. Whether you need a Kramer Shear Cell to compare chicken nugget tenderness, a ball probe to assess flesh firmness or a knife blade to measure the bite force of your meat/fish – texture analysis is the tool to employ.
Want to discuss texture analysis for Cell Cultured Foods?
Pioneers in Cell Cultured Foods
Beyond Meat, New Wave Foods and Impossible Foods have all made swift progress in the textural optimisation of their plant-based seafood using a Stable Micro Systems Texture Analyser in their patents to get ahead in the game in this exciting new field. Plant-based alternatives that mimic seafood are cropping up at restaurants and grocery stores around the world and “cultivated” seafood grown in labs from real cells, is on the horizon with Blue Nalu, Remilk, Upside Foods and New Age Meats identifying that texture is a priority to create the ‘same-as’ sensory experience in the cell cultured food market. It's only a matter of time before the legislation catches up with the technology to produce these products and it’s a race to get the best product in place at the start line!
The Future of Food with Cell Cultured Foods
Traditional farming and agriculture methods are clearly not going away any time soon. In fact, if they did, the world would be in a whole lot of trouble. However, as the population continues to grow, and more emphasis is put on environmental sustainability, cell agriculture can help to fill that void. The pandemic also exposed the instability of worldwide supply chains, motivating countries to push for the production of their own food. The future of cell cultured foods looks bright, particularly in places where intensive farming is not possible. It will be an interesting market to watch over the next few years and quality control methods will need to be introduced for consumer acceptance. Let us help you with the tools for the job!