It’s your birthday, and your family takes you out for a nice dinner. Because it’s a special day, you decide to splurge and order the ribeye steak. After a little appetizer of an exploded-looking deep-fried onion, your meal comes out. The steak is beautifully cooked – seared on the outside, perfect temperature on the inside. They even nestled a little pat of butter on the top. When you taste it, your senses go wild. It is perfection. In fact, it is so good that you call your waiter over.
“Please give my compliments to the chef. This is amazing. I don’t know what kind of cow this came from, but she had to be a pretty little thing,” you joke.
“Oh, but your steak didn’t come from a cow,” the waiter replies.
Disconcerted, you say, “Wait, is this one of those plant-based meats? I don’t think that’s what I ordered, but it tastes amazingly real.”
“Oh no, sir, your steak is pure cow. It just didn’t come from a cow,” the waiter responds.
Seeing your confused look, the waiter goes on to explain to you that what you are eating is cultivated meat. It is genuine, edible meat that is grown in a production facility rather than on a ranch. In other words, you can grow yourself a steak without ever having to deal with all those messy extra parts of the cow. How would you respond upon hearing that information? Would you think, “What an astounding technology?” Or would you start feeling queasy and have to quickly excuse yourself?
Aleph Farms, a meat grower based in Rehovot, Israel, has developed a process in which they are able to grow GMO-free, non-antibiotic steaks by isolating and cultivating cells from a healthy cow without harming the animal. According to their website, after being placed in an optimal environment of nutrients and water, “The cells grow and form tissues in the process of tissue regeneration, constructing a steak the same as in nature.”i While it takes two years to create a nice juicy ribeye via the old-fashioned moo-method, Aleph Farms claims to be able to do it in 3-4 weeks.
Once we get past the creepy factor of this Israeli innovation, the real-world ramifications come into play. As population continues to grow, there is a greater call for quality, sustainable, and clean food. The technology being perfected at Aleph Farms is designed to address these needs. But these food cultivators are not just content to create a tasteless, “parts is parts” type of product. Aleph Farms approaches meat growing with a chef’s flair. Speaking of their recently revealed innovative ribeye steak, Dr. Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms said, “This breakthrough reflects an artistic expression of the scientific expertise of our team…. I am blessed to work with some of the greatest people in this industry. We recognize some consumers will crave thicker and fattier cuts of meat.”ii
While it is unlikely that the cow will ever become obsolete and the rumors of the death of the rancher are highly exaggerated, they do have some new, albeit very small, competition. Due to its potential benefits in the areas of sustainability and addressing hunger in various parts of the world, we can expect the market for cultivated meats to continue to increase. So, the next time you are in an expensive restaurant that is well-known for their “hand-crafted” steaks, you may want to get some clarification on just what it is that they mean.
I “Nature & Design.” Aleph Farms, 20 Oct. 2020, aleph-farms.com/nature-design/.
ii NoCamels Team. “Aleph Farms, Technion Debut ‘World’s First’ Cultivated Ribeye Steak.” NoCamels, 10 Feb. 2021, nocamels.com/2021/02/aleph-farms-technion-debut-worlds-first-cultivated-ribeye-steak/.