At Modern Meadow we’re developing technology to 3D-bioprint meat and leather. In fact, we’ve already made some, which you can see my co-founder and father eat in his TED talk here (at 5:33).

Why are we doing this? Meat is one of the most environmentally taxing resources, taking up one third of all available (ice-free) land and is a leading contributor to climate change. Conversely, growing cultured meat requires 99% less land, 96% less water, emits 96% fewer greenhouse gases, and harms no animals in the process.

Our work has been covered in TIME, Scientific American, CNET, and here’s a video of a recent talk I gave at Google’s Solve for X conference. Ask me anything!

Proof: picture of me, and here is a picture of me in an article (or see my talk linked above).

Comments: 2011 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

newyankee637 karma

What is the input , what is the output ? Explain like i am five, for 1 kg of meat , what is needed ?

aforgacs535 karma

The input are largely animal cells (muscle, fat and a couple other types - taken from a donor animal through a biopsy) and cell culture media (a soup in which the cells grow made of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, salts, sugars) and then energy to run the process. Output is muscle tissue that is then matured/conditioned until it is processed into meat products.

punkrockpete224 karma

Are the input animal cells consistent with the output? Or will there be a blending of pig/cow/horse etc to create "beef"?

aforgacs364 karma

No blending of different species. Pig stays pig. Cow stays cow. Etc. We are using multiple cell types from each animal but staying with the same animal. In fact, an advantage of this approach is that it can ensure purity. Because we control the inputs and have such a tight process, we know the exact ingredients of every batch. No mystery meat surprises like the recent one from the UK.

LetMeStateTheObvious186 karma

Do you think a blend is marketable? I for one would be interested in a chicken and beef blend, all I ask is that you sell it as such, not disguised.

aforgacs148 karma

Good feedback. Someone suggested turducken as well. I guess our imagination is the limiting factor.

SalishSailor103 karma

10 years ago as a biochemistry undergraduate I remember speculating about the possibility of meat factories. I imagined muscles growing on racks, being maintained by tubes acting as artificial blood vessels. I'm thrilled that someone is actually working on this!

Is the matured / conditioned muscle tissue grown in the way I envisioned back then, much like real muscles but on supporting racks with artificial blood vessels? Or is it more like suspended in a nutrient solution?

aforgacs137 karma

Glad to hear about your enthusiasm and early vision for this field. 10 years ago you were among the early wave of thinkers about this approach.

We are currently growing muscle cells in roller bottles (suitable for anchorage dependent cells) and cell culture medium. Then we separate out the cells from the medium (via centrifuging) and assemble 3D tissues using bioassembly techniques such as bioprinting. You are right that beyond a certain thickness, the tissues need perfusion (via blood vessels or otherwise) to continue to receive nutrients and O2 during the maturation process. We're working on a number of approaches to facilitate this. Importantly, however, unlike medical tissues, a piece of meat is post-mortem and does not need to be living and functional in the end.

debau72 karma

Where does the cell culture media come from?

aforgacs126 karma

Currently, we buy it "off the shelf" from bio supply companies like ThermoFisher (HyClone) or Life Technologies (Invitrogen Gibco). In time, as we become larger users of media, we will progressively optimize our cell culture media to be perfectly matched for the cells we are growing. Our goal is also to reduce and eliminate all animal products from these media.

L-P8TO58 karma

Do you still have to supplement with 10% fetal bovine serum, or some type of serum for the cells to grow?

aforgacs71 karma

Today we supplement with <5% FBS but are dropping this progressively as we condition our cells. We are also exploring fully serum-free media or plant-based sera.

Multicorn22 karma

OP delivers!

Also - do you deliver?

aforgacs19 karma

Delivery? Why not. Good idea for novel pizza toppings perhaps ;)

debau33 karma

How is the culture media produced?

aforgacs61 karma

Here's a tidbit on cell culture medium.'s_minimal_essential_medium

It is made of amino acids, salts, vitamins and minerals. Each manufacturer (i.e. ThermoFisher, Life Technologies, Sigma-Aldrich) adheres to very high ISO standards of purity and sterility. These cell culture media have been used for the last 50+ years of cell culture work and are a familiar foundation for cell biology.

iamaredditer474 karma

Does it taste the same as regular meat?

aforgacs1521 karma

I've tasted it as have my colleagues. We've only been able to have small bites since we're still working on getting the process right.

I cooked some pieces in olive oil and ate some with and without salt and pepper. Not bad. The taste is good but not yet fully like meat. We have yet to get the fat content right and other elements that influence taste. This process will be iterative and involve us working closely with our consulting chefs.

Creative-Overloaded187 karma

How do I sign up for taste tasting. I'll sign my life away for some new type of food I can try.

aforgacs191 karma

Thanks for volunteering. If you are interested, please sign up on our website, facebook or twitter. We'll send out notices as we get closer to having something ready for public tastings. We will likely organize periodic tasting events in several major cities. Cultured meat Mondays perhaps?

2Punx2Furious57 karma

With some tweaking you'll be able to print even rare/high-quality meat, like Kobe beef. I'm guessing it's just a matter of time.

Edit: Thinking of True Blood too.

hithazel96 karma

One of the attractive parts of his is that in addition to replacing the growth of organs, limbs, etc, you could also grow something that was entirely tuna collar or entirely tenderloin rather than having to grow and kill the entire animal to get that small part.

poon-is-food31 karma

Shark fins!

Wait a sec, what about ivory? Im guessing that's a completely different process but it could be done surely?

hithazel35 karma

Once you get the process down, ivory would be a matter of a relatively simple 3D printing job since it's inorganic dentin.

aforgacs60 karma

I just heard of a company that is making synthetic ivory -

aforgacs5 karma

Shark fin is a great suggestion and has come up before. Something like 75 million sharks are killed annually for shark fin soup. This is a huge market in Asia though less so in the West. We're considering it.

Ivory or rhino horn have also been suggested but are very different materials from our approach. We make soft tissues like muscle, skin, etc. rather than minerals like carbonated hydroxyapatite (bone/ivory) or keratin (rhino horn).

Lord_Osis_B_Havior35 karma

How confident are you that you can get it identical to a real steak within, say, 10 years?

How about for hamburger (which I assume is easier)?

aforgacs79 karma

Real steak is a big stretch. It won't be the first product since steak is very hard to make for now. Instead, the first wave of meat products to be made with this approach will likely be minced meats (burgers, sausages, etc.) and pates (goose liver pate, etc.). Also seafood is an early possibility since the texture requires may be easier to achieve than premium cuts.

While I doubt anyone will make commercial quantities of premium steak within 10 years, we will eventually get there but it will be an Nth generation product.

all_bozos34 karma

To really replicate the taste of meat, would it need to contain some blood? Isn't that part of what makes beef taste the way it does, that it's not just muscle tissue?

aforgacs43 karma

We're seeing where we get on flavor without replicating blood for now. That said, there are teams working on blood analogs as well. We could incorporate some myoglobin analog for iron and taste as necessary. This part is still work-in-progress.

Dentarthurdent4233 karma

Is the consistency similar yet? I recall reading a few years ago that it was almost like gelatin and needed to be toughened up through artificial exercise (electrical muscle stimulation)

aforgacs41 karma

Conditioning is an important step and will determine its texture and consistency. Current approaches include stimulating muscle fibers mechanically (with resistance), electrically, etc. This is a step which will require ongoing optimization.

ThymineC115 karma

I'm all for his idea. It'd lead to a great reduction in the suffering of non-human animals, and I wouldn't mind eating a synthetic substitute so long as it's proven to be healthy, relatively inexpensive, and taste about as nice.

Edit: Andras, have you ever read anything by David Pearce? Did any people in particular inspire you to want to do this?

aforgacs147 karma

Thanks for your comment. I have not yet read any David Pearce but will check him out. There is certainly a transhumanist element to this approach. And I did speak with Peter Singer early on when we were just getting started.

Our motivation is as much about minimizing animal suffering as it is about mitigating the environmental impacts.

runnerdood324 karma

Considering the vast majority of land animals raised for food are chickens (~90%) and endure immense suffering do you have any plans to 3d-print chicken in the future? Since people eat so much chicken, I'm sure it's very environmentally taxing like beef and pork.

Edit: PS - it's really awesome you're doing this and I think it's a really innovative way to solve some of our world's biggest problems.

Edit 2: For those who are interested in current meat production, here is a really good IAMA from a former factory farm undercover investigator:

aforgacs484 karma

Chicken has been the fastest growing meat category over the last 40 years. It is also relatively cheap and environmentally efficient when compared to beef, pork or tuna. This makes it more challenging to compete with than other more expensive and taxing meats.

Our approach could certainly make chicken but it won't likely be a priority for a while. We will focus initially on the most environmentally burdensome meats and those which have the highest value per pound.

That said, chickens do suffer significantly in how they are raised and processed. If we can make the economics work in the future, we will develop a chicken product to help alleviate this.

puntloos250 karma

A couple of questions:

  • How do you expect pricing to develop? Looking for an answer like: First production: limited distribution, $100/kg First large grocery chain adoption: $40/kg Replaced all animal-meat in the world: $0.01/kg

  • What do you base your 99% less land etc etc statement on? Kobe Beef?

  • Instead, can you contrast eating your product with something like soy or quinoa from the ecological point of view?

  • Would this product be a viable way to provide protein (and perhaps some iron etc) macronutrition to the world or will it always be luxury?

  • are you planning to print the perfect turducken?

  • What is your take on the health aspects of meat? Some health aspects are avoidable - I assume your product will not have many antibiotics or mercury etc but some health issues are inherent to meat.. are you able to improve on nature

aforgacs297 karma

Really good questions. Here goes:

  • On pricing, I can't give you too much detail since we still don't fully know the answers. Currently, we are only making a couple ounces at a time so price is meaningless at such a small scale. We anticipate getting to limited production at something around $100/lb but hopefully less. By the time this scales to grocery stores, it should be more affordable at $30/lb or less. These are just rough figures since a lot will change as our approach evolves.

  • The environmental analysis was based on comparisons with traditional intensive farming of beef from studies by Tuomisto and de Mattos.

  • Compared to plants, eating meat will be more environmentally taxing. I'm not familiar with the details of soy or quinoa but I imagine that it is hard to find any meat product that competes with plants in terms of environmental efficiency. Our best hope is to find/develop products that reduce the burden as much as possible.

  • It won't always be luxury but it has to start as a premium item since supply will be extremely limited and expensive in the beginning. This approach scales so it will progressively become more cost effective as volumes increase. Eventually, it can become an alternative for feeding not just gourmets in the developed world but aspiring consumers (with more meat-based diets) in emerging markets.

  • No plans yet for turducken but what a great idea.

  • On the health aspects of meat, I'm no expert but I understand that meat provides some essential nutrients that are more challenging to supplement otherwise (iron, b vitamins, proteins, etc.). Our products will have the advantage of providing all the nutritional advantages of meat with fewer undesirable ingredients (mercury, antibiotics, pesticides, hormones, etc.). We will be able to optimize fat content (better HDL/LDL profile, omega 3, etc.) and enhance nutrition (bio-available iron, vitamins, etc.).

Quinnett63 karma

$30 a pound wholesale or to the consumers? That's still very expensive. Even at Whole Foods, I think the most expensive cuts of beef are in the 20-30 per pound range. I gather this is a niche product for the foreseeable future?

aforgacs10 karma

That's were I get currently with my back of the envelop but a lot changes between now and then. We have to finalize the process and then scale. Scaling can deviate our estimates upwards or downwards.

At $30 per pound initially, it is expensive, premium and niche but not out of the realm of some consumers. Kobe beef costs $250 per pound. American wagyu goes for $100 per pound. Blue fin tuna, fugu, abalone all have high price points. If we can start at a premium level, our costs will only continue to come down as we scale and eventually become cost competitive vs. farmed meats.

whereisria181 karma

What kind of meat do you print? Beef? Fish? Pork? Or everything? (Human??)

aforgacs327 karma

Theoretically, we could make meat from any kind of muscle. That said, we are working on beef first since we want to demonstrate success in something well established. We had previously made samples in pork for our demo at TEDMED but the focus now is on beef.

As we achieve the right proof of concept with beef, we may branch out to other types of high value and environmentally taxing meats as well such as pork, blue-fin tuna, etc.

Human meat is not on the menu. Sorry.

I_wwebsite146 karma

So you could theoretically make just tenderloin, bacon, and sashimi grade fish?

aforgacs323 karma

Theoretically yes. That's the real virtue of this approach. You can make the most desirable parts without having to grow (and kill) an entire animal.

facedefacer49 karma

Human meat is not on the menu. Sorry

is there an actual reason for why not?

uncoiledspaghetti114 karma

an actual reason

So "because it's creepy" isn't good enough, then?

Oberst_Von_Poopen44 karma

What about growing replacement tissue?

aforgacs143 karma

There's a whole industry around growing medical replacement tissue. This is the focus of the field of regenerative medicine. My first biotech company, Organovo, is a pioneer in the medical tissue engineering space.

sm9t8106 karma

How about a Mammoth steak? Or giant tortoise?

Extinct or endangered animals we would never think about eating could be back on the menu.

aforgacs210 karma

Interesting idea. There are people working on "de-extinction", namely reconstructing the genomes of extinct passenger pigeons, mammoths, etc. Check out:

We have discussed the idea of growing leather from extinct (or rare or endangered) species. The idea of doing the same with meat is also possible. Mammoth steaks anyone?

Mrs_Matty108 karma

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this meat substitute over current soy/tempeh/etc. substitutes currently on the market? How will the price compare to real meat and meat substitutes that are currently available?

aforgacs241 karma

The advantage of this meat is that it is not so much a "substitute" but rather true biological meat. It is made of the same ingredients and components as meat farmed traditionally except that we can make it healthier and grow it with much less harm to the environment and animals.

Soy/tempeh/seitan/etc are great products and some are even able to mimic the taste and texture of meat reasonably well. That said, they are not animal-cell based meat and won't fully compare nutritionally or flavor-wise. Their appeal is still largely limited to vegetarians or vegans.

Price will initially be a barrier until economies of scale kick in. At scale, this process requires 99% less land, 96% less water, 96% less greenhouse gases emitted and half as much energy. In time, costs should be competitive with traditionally farmed meat and until then it will be a premium niche product.

JeffreyRodriguez105 karma

I hate to be that guy, but [citation needed].

What numbers are you using to arrive at those percentages?

aforgacs307 karma

The most cited study is the one by Hanna Tuomisto "Environmental Impacts of Cultured Meat Production" in Environmental Science & Technology.

Some other studies are also emerging and more research is needed especially once the protocols are standardized for making cultured meat.

donthurtthisguy43 karma

I think in order to really sell this stuff you are going to need to make it cheaper than the real thing, preferably by a decent margin. I know that if I saw printed meat next to natural meat and the prices where roughly the same then I would go for the real thing.

aforgacs119 karma

Fair point. Until it can be cheaper though it will have to also be better in some inherent way. Not all cuts of meat are the same price and we are willing to pay more for kobe beef and toro belly sashimi than hotdogs and hamburgers. We will have to make sure that the early presentations of this meat satisfy the highest standards in taste so that we can introduce it as a desirable and premium food item.

vegn88 karma

Andras, thanks for doing this! Do you see an age where people have largely stopped consuming "traditional meat" (straight from the animal) and overwhelmingly choose 3D meat? If so, when?

aforgacs156 karma

Thanks for the question. As optimistic as I am about this approach, it will likely never fully displace traditionally farmed meat. Rather, it will be an option from hopefully several alternatives to traditional intensive meat farming.

Think of the parallels to the energy industry. Historically, the vast majority of our energy came from fossil fuels. Today, there's been growth in renewable sources and nuclear to balance out the portfolio of energy options.

Similarly, currently, the vast majority of our meat comes from intensive factory farming. Hopefully, in the future, there will be a more balanced approach between factory farming, organic/local and plant/animal-based alternatives.

That said, it is possible that this approach (and others like it) can shift our moral consciousness and that raising/slaughtering animals may one day seem brutal when there are more humane alternatives to eating the same protein.

mitchell00764 karma

How soon can we expect your "meat" to be in our grocery stores?

aforgacs106 karma

That will take a while since it has to be perfected first and then has to be approved by regulators such as FDA and USDA. As we perfect it, we will organize small tastings but we won't be able to sell it in stores without full approval. That could take up to a decade or more. It is also possible that this product will be available for sale abroad before it is sold in the US.

Dayanx40 karma

I'm wondering how flesh consistency is done. Doesn't muscle tissue require exercise to keep from turning out like jelly?

aforgacs62 karma

Absolutely. Bioassembly (using a bioprinter or otherwise) is just one step of the process. The muscle tissue does need to be conditioned post-assembly for a period of time. This requires specialized bioreactors that can continue to provide nutrients to the muscle while it is being exercised.

shiv4m31 karma

Good Morning Curly,

That pig diagram on the Solve for X conference seems a bit scary just because I don't understand it. Yes it will be more efficient for us to eat this rather than raising animals to slaughter, but is this stuff healthy? What does this 'serum' consist of?

aforgacs57 karma

Good question. The meat that comes from this process will be healthy and, in fact, can be healthier in ways that are difficult to achieve for conventionally grown meat. We can control fat content (and type), vitamins, etc. Importantly, this won't be sold to the public without being thoroughly tested and demonstrated to be safe.

The approach in the pig diagram is largely cell culture followed by bio-fabrication of muscle tissue, maturation of these tissues and then preparing this muscle into meat products (flavoring, texturing, etc.).

The culture media is very standard and consists of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, salts and simple sugars like glucose. We are working to optimize our cell culture media to be plant based and independent of animal products.

MeetTheseIronFists30 karma

Did you come up with the idea? If so, what inspired you?

aforgacs69 karma

I can't claim credit for the idea. It has a very long history going back as far as Winston Churchill and even before. The idea of growing meat more efficiently and humanely has been a longstanding goal of biology research but was not possible until recent advances in cell culture and tissue engineering.

My connection to the idea comes from my first biotech company Organovo which pioneered the 3D bioprinting of human tissue for medical applications. We figured, if we can make medical grade tissues then we can also make muscle for meat and hide for leather. Modern Meadow is working to scale tissue engineering to applications beyond medicine and help grow a consumer industry around biomaterials.

gburgdan28 karma

Is there any interest of collaborators with researchers from the USDA? I know that the National Pork Board in particular funds a large amount of swine research, including the USDA, and that might hinder possible research development within the USDA.

aforgacs62 karma

The USDA was our first supporter since we received a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant from them back in summer 2012. This was a scientific peer review based grant which determined that our proposal was ranked among the top 5% that the USDA received for the year.

We have received great support from the USDA in a few areas and anticipate them being a great partner. We also collaborate with researchers in the USDA for our leather products.

freemarket2726 karma

Will the sequester cuts affect your grants from the government? Or is the US government going to first cut air traffic controllers before it cuts funding for 3D printed meat?

aforgacs61 karma

Our government funding is modest and represents less than an eighth of the money we have raised for this venture. The vast majority of our investors are private individuals and venture funds willing to commit their own capital to this undertaking.

SBIR grants are very competitive and, yes, they will be affected by the sequester in that they are harder and harder to get every year. Funding for basic research and commercializing basic research across many agencies (e.g. NSF, NIH) has been flat or declining for the last decade. Not sure about the status of air traffic controllers but I'm sure they are not funded by NSF, NIH or USDA.

Imryanz15 karma

After perfecting the meats, is it possible to include variety of fat content, vitamins, proteins, etc for flavor purposes? Or will every meat be the same?

Ninja Question Edit: If it does take off and the meat farms close, what do you think will happen to the land?

aforgacs14 karma

Yes. One of the main features is the ability of this process to make meats tailored for nutrition, health, flavor, etc.

I don't think meat farms will close anytime soon since our global appetite for meat is growing far faster than supply. When some farms do close, what happens to the land will be determined by the needs of local economies - plant crops, residential housing, energy production, etc.

freemarket272 karma

How much do politics enter into your business? Political liberals, who control the US government, like what you are doing a lot. Does your business curry favor with liberals in the hope of gaining government funding or guaranteed loans? Similar to solar businesses like Solyndra?

aforgacs13 karma

Politics doesn't much enter into it except that, like any other food category, it will be regulated by the FDA and USDA. The less politics involved and the more this approach can stand on its merits, the better.

We do have Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grants from the USDA and NSF. The process for getting these grants is not political but rather based on peer review by scientific reviewers - just like publication of scientific papers in journals.

freemarket271 karma

What percentage of your funding comes from SBIR grants from the USDA and NSF? Compared to private business investment funding?

aforgacs7 karma

Less than an eighth of our funding comes from government grants. The vast majority comes from private investors and venture funds.