Prof Mark Post Q&A

On 17 September, IFST, in partnership with Food Matters Live, held a live Twitter Q&A with Professor Mark Post, creator of in vitro or cultured meat. The original Q&A took place over Twitter, but you can read below for all the questions and answers.

You can look up the interview on Twitter using #ProfPostQandA. We'll also be releasing a storify in the coming week.

Q1 What got you started on this area of research? via @LaurenLRogers

A1. I started with tissue engineering of blood vessels (medicine) and ran into skeletal muscle, a great idea

Q2 When will lab grown meat become commercially cheaper than animal slaughtered meat? via@DSi77

A2 will take a while. In 5 yrs it can be marketed, another couple of years needed to increase scale up and lower the price

Q3 What proteins could be lab grown? Could all types of farm animal? What about fish? Or Crustacean?

A3. Pretty much all. if muscle has the same stem cells (most species do). For more efficient animals it makes less sense

A3a Fish and Crustaceans are more efficient in making meat. Threat of extinction however might be other reason to culture

Q4 After the initial development, how do you see it being utilised and how can we overcome perception? via @InnovationNPD

A4 Perception and mistrust needs to be overcome by transparency and explaining urgency of meat crisis.

A4a Analysing anxieties and addressing them is also important. narratives of DYI will help

Q5 What is your view on the level of consumer appeal of cultured meat vs. other protein sources e.g. insects? via @thomsok

A5. I feel that acceptance of insect proteins is harder than cultured beef, but their are similarities (both unfamiliar)

A5a There might be differences. Cultured beef might be viewed as "unnatural"

Q6 Are there projects taking place aimed at using the latest flavour technology to increase the palatability of cultured beef?

A6 Not yet, but we are going to work with flavour technologies to start precisely that work. All hamburgers are flavoured

Q7 Do you think humans could still live sustainably without progressing with lab grown meat? via @DSi77

A7. Definitely, we do not need meat for our health, we just like it. If it becomes a matter of survival we can refrain

A7a This technology would allow us to keep eating meat without the consequences environment, food security and animal welfare

Q8 Could lab grown meat contain natural antimicrobial properties and offer increased shelf life over current meat?

A8 Cultured beef is sterile and if packaged right can remain sterile. We don't add or subtract proteins, try hard to avoid it

Q9 How is development of a serum free medium needed to support the growth of satellite cells progressing? via @thomsok

A9. Essential for sustainability. If we end up with much less cows we won't have enough serum. Als animal welfare argument

A9a. We are working hard with reasonable success to eliminate serum from growth medium #Foodmatterslive

Q10 What inspired you to investigate and research lab grown meat? via @DSi77

A10 inspiration from Wim v Eelen, 92 yr guy, Amsterdam, who experienced hunger and animal cruelty as POW in Japanese camp

Q11 Re Q1 I meant more broadly :) what gave you the idea? via @laurenlrogers

A11. See last A (A10). Once exposed to the idea I realised it was a great opportunity to do something that really matters

Q12 One of the big factors of it being fully utilised is the cost factor, How will it compare to other protein? beef? Insects? via @InnovationNPD

A12. We know we can produce at 65 $/kg after scaling current tech. With improved tech it will come down from there rapidly

A12a when our process is more efficient than current beef it ought to be cheaper in the end; materials is the biggest cost


Prof Post also took the time to answer some questions after the live Q&A:

Q. When I was on the steering group of the Meat Research Institute in the 90's, I tried to get them to try this. However the science had not got far enough to even start.

Looking back, I am not sure it was a good idea. Essentially we are producing a mass of cells - just as with Quorn which has developed a niche market but has not set the world on fire. How is this different?

If it is that the cells can become like muscle it could help in acceptability but what will the cost be? Quorn is, I suspect, of marginal viability, and I would expect the meat cells growth and transformation to be even more costly.Is it more than an academic exercise?

A. We have shown that we can produce meat fibers consisting of many merged muscle cells that produce protein and sarcomeres (typical for muscle) when allowed to develop tension. Currently it is costly, but we have calculated that the production price eventually can come within an acceptable range

Q. An extremely interesting subject. Thank you. I was just wondering, Why did you choose to culture bovine tissue and not poultry meat (e.g. turkey steak) that does not really require fat tissue to have an acceptable taste and texture? And how profitable/easy do you think would it be to culture oily fish (or anyway fish) meat that is so healthy but very often "rich" in mercury and other contaminants and also not reachable to a large majority of the population due to high prices?

A: Cattle are very inefficient in converting vegetable proteins in their food to edible animal proteins. Chicken and fish are much more efficient. Cattle, as ruminants, also emit methane, which chicken and fish do not. Chicken or fish could be cultured for other reasons such animal welfare or threat of extinction. 

Q. Do you think that achieving the taste profile of beef in cultured meat will be the most challenging part of the project? via @thomsok

A. I actually do not. Taste is a combination of taste, flavour, looks and texture. Looks and texture are OK, taste and flavour depend on protein composition and fat composition. We are working on it and are confident that we will come close. Additional flavouring may do the final part