We can now have cultivated meat with a Vitamin A precursor. A group of researchers at Tufts University have genetically engineered cow muscle cells to produce plant nutrients not usually produced by cow cells. The advantage of doing this is that “These phytonutrients offer general nutritive value and protective effects against diseases associated with red and processed meat consumption.” They therefore have the potential to make meat “healthier”. In this case the cell fats showed lower levels of lipid oxidation when the cells were cooked. Lipid oxidation is the proposed link between processed meats and diseases like colorectal cancer, so this could significantly reduce the risk of these diseases.
And it’s not limited to just these phytonutrients, other nutritional benefits could be engineered into cultivated meat cells. The researchers believe that this method could therefore allow the tailoring of the nutritional profile of meat. It may not be feasible to tailor a meat product for each one of billons of consumers, but some general nutritional advantages could be engineered into meat. We could tailor certain types of meat for groups of consumers who have broadly similar nutritional requirements or susceptibilities.
Personalisation is again key
With personalisation a key underlying trend in all aspects of consumer’s lives this technology addresses a key consumer need. People may think this is all too much but most don’t realise just how many products of genetic engineering we currently consume, or even inject into our bodies! Rennet for cheese production is one such widespread product as is insulin. Isn’t it strange that we’ll inject the product of a genetically altered organism if it cures or limits a disease but eating it is a step too far?
What does the future hold?
When we finally see the convergence of the food and health industries because people eat for their health will they take the same view of food as they do medicine? If a significant fraction of the population accept the products and reap the benefits will this persuade others? I’d like to think that both scenarios will come true.
Meat that’s better than meat, will it fly with consumers?