Animal Lab-grown Meat

The discovery and development of imitation, artificial, faux or mock meat has been going on for very long. Worldwide lab-grown meat is often promoted on grounds of health, environment and ethics, but we must beware of the “ethics” claim because not all meat substitutes are of non-animal origin. The latest 2016 claim by an Indian origin person working on producing beef, pork and chicken in labs is that the meat harvested is contamination-free meat from animal cells therefore sustainable and cruelty-free!


In 2009 scientists of a laboratory in The Netherlands began working on developing meat in a test tube. They took cells from a living pig and cultured them in an animal foetus “broth”. The resultant lab-grown “soggy pork” turned out to be structure-less.

How the Meat was Grown in the Lab

In 2013, the Dutch scientists again grew meat in the laboratory. It was pronounced to be “close to, but not that juicy” as real meat.

A living cow was subjected to a biopsy to extract some stem -cells. The aim was to make them develop and multiply in the lab.


The cells were used to grow 20,000 muscle fibres in individual culture wells, each one a tiny hoop of greyish-white piece suspended in a gel-like growth medium that contained antibiotics and serum extracted from cow foetuses.

Some stem cells were transferred into smaller dishes where they first coalesced into small strips.

The resultant fibres and strips were pressed together, coloured with beetroot juice and mixed with saffron, caramel, breadcrumbs and some binding ingredients to form a beef-burger.

Netherland’s Mosa Meat who claim to have introduced the world’s first cultivated beef hamburger used this technology and they continue to produce the lab-meat directly from cow cells.

Cultured Meat
Cultured meat – also known as clean meat, lab-grown meat, cell-based meat, slaughter-free meat, shmeat, vitro meat, in vitro meat, hydroponic meat, test tube meat, vat-grown meat, victimless meat and synthetic meat – begins as flesh taken as a biopsy from a living animal (from donor herds of cows, bulls, chickens, fish, pigs, goats or sheep kept for this purpose), or flesh from a slaughtered animal (or even human stem cells), and grown in a laboratory. The meat substitute strives to be similar to the flavour, texture and other characteristics of animal flesh.

For example Memphis Meats website in 2018 clearly states “we make food by sourcing high-quality cells from animals and cultivating them into meat.” Another producer is Israel based Aleph Farms which grows beef steaks from non-genetically engineered cells isolated from living cows.

In February 2019 the Maharashtra state government signed a MOU with Good Food Institute (of USA) for cell-based research and production of meat. The centre will be set up at the Institute of Chemical Technology, Jalna. Cells will be taken from animals and grown in petri dishes in a lab. Shockingly the Humane Society International India sees nothing wrong in the venture and has partnered GFI and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (Hyderabad) to produce and promote clean meat. 

In August 2019 the IIT Guwahati researchers claimed to have come up with tissue engineered meat in the laboratory for which they had even received a patent. Muscle progenitor cells isolated from animals via small biopsies were grown using external chemicals like hormones, animal serum, growth factors and antibiotics.

The so-called small quantity taken once, and whether a stem cell bank is created and used to go on producing the cultured meat, or if it requires any more animal derived substances, is irrelevant. However, it is clearly understood that the cells taken from living animals must be cultured in fetal bovine serum or fetal calf serum.


The fact remains, the first meat cells are taken from animals and it would be unethical for vegans (and vegetarians) to eat, condone and promote it since it is positively of animal origin. Besides, India’s religious beliefs and culture would probably never accept it being consumed.

It is claimed that to grow 1 kg of beef from cells uses 200 times less land and 30 times less water than raising a cattle from which 1 kg of meat is taken. However, the good news is that the current cost of production, 1 kg of lab-grown chicken is for $19,800.

Similarly, an American start-up manufactures “milk” claiming it to be of the same nutritional value and taste as dairy. But here too it is done by engineering the relevant cattle genes into yeast cells, and growing those in fermentation tanks. It is not vegan.

Not really Vegan

Although many plant-based meat alternatives claim to be made primarily from plants, they aren’t all that different from ultra processed food products and can very well contain animal derived substances.

In July 2016, Impossible Foods’ burger made its debut in a New York restaurant. It claims to be vegan but can not be so because this so-called meat is tested on animals. The ingredient which gives it the characteristic colour and taste of meat and catalyzes all the other flavours when meat is cooked is heme protein which has for this burger been specially derived from plants (GM soy) using a fermentation process. In other words the key ingredient is modified yeast and GM yeast is produced using heme protein or with rennin. (Rennin is animal rennet which comes from stomachs of unweaned calves, the use of which is banned in India for cheese making.) Moreover, iron salt is used as flavouring and egg albumin as a binding agent for such burgers. It also contains methylcellulose, oils and food starch. In short, the mock meat is of non-veg origin, is ultra-processed and unhealthy. From the health point of view the biggest drawback of mock meat is sodium. One portion of a mock meat burger contains around 40% salt of the recommended daily value. Remember plenty of evidence links ultra-processed foods to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases including kidney and obstructive pulmonary diseases.


In 2020 Singapore approved sale of lab-grown meat grown from animal muscle cells, to be sold as nuggets.

Cell-Cultured and Clean?

Hampton Creek and may be other manufacturers are researching on producing meat from say a chicken feather/quill (or even dandruff) grown in culture from plant extracts with no donor herds and no fetal serum as culture. But, even if and when available, would it still be really ethical? And, if other manufacturers continue using donor herds and serum culture it may be difficult to distinguish the two.

Non-animal Origin Alternatives – or so they say!

In 1967 British scientists discovered a microfungus high in protein.


In 1995 Tofurky, a meat analogue made from a blend of wheat protein and organic tofu, debuted in America, and 3 million had been sold by 2012.


For centuries, tofu and tempeh made from soy, are consumed in Asia and considered an adequate source of protein by those who do not eat carcasses.


Similarly, seitan made from gluten and is called “wheat meat”.


In 1896 John Harvey Kellogg, an American Seventh-Day Adventist, created the first “meatless meat” from peanuts and named it Nuttose.

Another company started in 2018 called Wild Earth Inc has launched a dog treat made from protein produced by a fungus known as koji, the Japanese version of baker’s yeast that grows rapidly inside tanks along with sugar and nutrients at the right balmy temperature.

Frankly, why do we need to eat meat or even an alternative meat? To wean off those who say they cannot do without eating animals? What ever be the argument, in reality, it is not essential for humans to consume flesh of any creature. The human population is expected to surpass 9 billion by 2050 the only way out without destroying the environment is from now a vegan diet for all.

Objections Galore

It is not surprising to see Americans who are involved in the meat industry particularly ranchers persuading state governments to introduce laws that make it illegal to use the word “meat” on labels to describe non-animal origin alternatives to burgers, sausages, etc. It proves how popular brands such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods that produce burgers from plant-based ingredients have become, and how the meat industry is absolutely desperate because they fear that lab-grown meat could eventually become a low-cost alternative and throw them out of business – which is of course exactly what is aimed at because then animals would not be bred to be killed for meat. Similar objections are being expressed by the dairy industry about plant milks. And then there are alternatives to egg products and vegan chicken nuggets that the poultry industry is worried about. Thus all these producers, including Nestle that has jumped in to the fray with their Awesome Burger, are fighting the growing public acceptance of so-called humane production of vegan meat and other alternative non-animal derived food products. Why else would KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) have in August 2019 agreed to test Beyond Meat’s chicken for one day in their restaurant in Georgia, USA?

What we at BWC are strongly against is both slaughter and lab-grown along with other meat substitutes. There is a fine line between the two which we need to be aware of. We don’t need any type of meat – real or artificial.

Closer home, BWC has strongly objected to Meat being called Ahimsa and Ahinsa. First of all it is not ahinsak or veg because it has been made from flesh taken from an animal and the cells grown in a lab. Secondly, we must remember that this meat will not appeal to Indians who are meat eaters, but vegetarians and if they get a taste of meat they may want to try eating flesh of slaughtered animals. 
Page last updated on 29/09/21