Lab–grown and plant–based meat: the science, psychology and future of meat alternatives – podcast


The Conversation 

July 15, 2021


How do you mimic meat? We take a look at the science behind plant-based and cultured meat in this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, and where it might lead. And we hear about new research from Indonesia on cigarette advertising and how it lures in children.


Companies have been marketing meat alternatives such as soy or bean burgers at vegetarians and vegans since the 1970s. But in the last few years, a number of companies including Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have changed the game, launching plant-based products aimed at mimicking real meat.


Mariana Lamas, a research associate at the Centre for Culinary Innovation at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Canada, says such efforts are attempting to reverse engineering nature. “They ask what makes meat taste and cook like meat and they go from there.” She talks us through some of the science involved and the key elements that make a plant-based meat mimic successful.


From plant-based products we turn to cultured meat, or what some call “no-kill” or vegan meat. Andrew Stout, PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at Tufts University in Massachusetts, US, explains how he grows meat in a petri dish in a lab. Stout believes cell-line technology like this, which breaks down meat to its individual cells, bring massive potential to add different flavours, nutrients and even medicines to cultured meat. “Once you’re dealing with cells, the whole world opens up to you that isn’t open when you’re dealing with whole animals.”


So far only one country in the world, Singapore, has granted a licence to sell cultured meat. But even if more products do start making it onto menus and into supermarket aisles elsewhere in the world, will people eat it?


We talk to Matti Wilkes, postdoctoral research associate in psychology at Yale University in Connecticut, US, about her research into people’s readiness to eat cultured meat...


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