Reutlingen (dpa) – Jannis Wollschlaeger goes to the butcher twice a week at 6 o’clock in the morning, right after the slaughter. On Mondays she is interested in beef, on Thursdays pork. “I can still heat it up,” says the doctoral student at the Faculty of Applied Chemistry at the University of Reutlingen.
The 27-year-old hurries to the lab, where he meticulously slices the lean muscle meat at 37 degrees, provides it with nutrients and places it in a container in the incubator. The goal: to get adult stem cells to multiply to produce meat. At the end of the complicated process, a 3D printer helps to print a “mini steak”. The product is edible, but doesn’t taste much, says Wollschlaeger.
According to Wollschlaeger’s boss and project manager Petra Kluger, there is still a long way to go before the product is actually edible. “Thanks to the research on the subject, sausages or fillings for ravioli and meatballs with artificial meat will be conceivable in a few years.”
Cultured meat helps people get enough to eat, but it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves water and land. “It can definitely be said that animal suffering could be drastically reduced in this way,” says Kluger, vice president for research at the University of Reutlingen.
Topic off the agenda in Germany
From his point of view, the meat of the 3D printer has a lot of potential. The idea isn’t new, but it’s not being researched enough in this country, Kluger says. “The issue is not on Germany’s agenda. We’ve missed out on a lot of technologies, but we could still jump on this one.”
In 2013, Mark Post and his team at Maastricht University presented the first in vitro hamburger made from bovine stem cells. In January 2016, the American start-up Memphis Meats presented the first meatball in vitro.
Even if in vitro meat production is possible, there is still no method to produce in vitro meat on a large scale, according to a study by the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. This is mainly due to the fact that the components of an in vitro meat production process still need to be investigated further.
The United States, the Netherlands, Japan and Israel are in the lead. These are mainly research projects at universities, non-profit non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or start-ups funded by NGOs and investors who want to further develop in vitro meat and bring it to market.
plant based diet
From the point of view of the Federation for Environmental Protection and Nature Conservation (BUND), it is not appropriate to simply solve the problems of industrial agriculture in another way. “We have to get to the root of the problem: our excessive consumption of meat. Compared to plant-based production, lab-grown meat definitely performs worse in terms of energy and resource requirements,” said state director general Martin Bachhofer.
Today it is easier than ever to eat a healthy mostly or exclusively plant-based diet. However, this is not a plea for the complete abolition of ranching. “It depends on the shape and scale: In the future we will still need ‘real’ animals that are on the grass and thus preserve species-rich habitats in the grasslands. This grassland is also important as a CO2 sink for climate protection,” Bachhofer said.
Research funds are scarce
The Swiss Avina Foundation is financing a joint project between the University of Reutlingen and the University of Hohenheim. Research ways to advance industrial-scale production.
According to Kluger, funds are tight. “I don’t understand why there is so little funding for this issue. We are at the beginning of a new technology that does not want to destroy agriculture, but rather offer a complementary alternative, because there are more and more people in the world”, says Kluger.
fodder and grain
More than half of the vegetarian products produced worldwide are fed to animals. If these two countries ceased to be wheat producers due to the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, the question arises whether it is ethically justifiable to feed animals with scarce grains.
According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), only 35 countries in Africa import wheat and other things from Russia or Ukraine. Experts warn that the war in Ukraine will permanently increase the price of raw materials such as gas, oil and wheat.
KIT for laboratory meat