What’s The Process Of Growing Meat In A Lab & When Will You Be Able To Try It In Australia?

5 min read

This article is for general information purposes only and isn’t intended to be financial product advice. You should always obtain your own independent advice before making any financial decisions. The Chainsaw and its contributors aren’t liable for any decisions based on this content.



Lab-grown meat has been making waves in recent years as a potential game-changer for the meat industry. Also known as cultured meat or cell-based meat, this innovative food technology aims to solve some of the ethical and environmental issues associated with traditional animal agriculture. But what exactly is lab-grown meat. How is it made? Let’s explore the science.

What is lab-grown meat?

Imagine meat that doesn’t come from a slaughtered animal but from a lab using animal cells. That’s essentially what lab-grown meat is — meat created by growing animal cells in a carefully regulated laboratory setting. It’s a bit like growing a plant from a cutting, only more meaty.

How is lab-grown meat made?

Creating lab-grown meat is a complex process that involves a few steps. First, researchers take stem cells from a living animal through a biopsy. These cells can turn into different types of cells, like muscle, fat or connective tissue.

Next, the stem cells are placed in a nutrient-rich mixture that helps them grow and develop. As the cells multiply, they form small strands of tissue. These strands are then placed on a scaffold, which acts like a support structure, allowing the cells to grow into larger pieces of meat.

Finally, once the lab-grown meat reaches the desired size and texture, it’s harvested and processed into various meat products, such as burgers, meatballs or nuggets. Yum.

The companies currently growing meat in a lab

Several companies around the world are racing to perfect the art of growing meat in a lab. Some of the big players include:

Upside Foods, formerly Memphis Meats

Founded in 2015, Upside Foods is a Californian company that’s already produced a range of lab-grown meat products, including meatballs, chicken and duck.

Mosa Meat

If you’ve heard of the world’s first lab-grown burger, then you might be familiar with Mosa Meat. This Dutch company was founded by Mark Post, the scientist who created that historic burger in 2013.

Since then, Mosa Meat has been working to perfect its technology and bring cell-based beef to market. It’s made significant progress in reducing the cost of production — while the first lab-grown burger cost a staggering €250,000 (AU $407,825), Post claims Mosa Meat can now produce a burger patty for around €9 (AU $15).

Eat Just

Eat Just is a San Francisco-based company that’s best known for its plant-based egg products. However, it’s also making significant strides in the lab-grown meat space.

Eat Just made headlines in December 2020 when it became the first company to receive regulatory approval to sell lab-grown meat in Singapore. This was a major milestone for the industry and could pave the way for other companies to bring their products to market.

Vow Foods

Australia is making its mark in the cell-based meat industry with Sydney’s Vow Foods. This innovative company isn’t just focused on replicating the usual beef and chicken; it’s also exploring a whole new realm of culinary possibilities by culturing cells from exotic and unusual animals including alpacas and Japanese quail. But more on that later. 

Is artificial meat grown in a lab vegan and vegetarian?

Here’s where things get a bit tricky. While lab-grown meat doesn’t involve animal slaughter, it does require a small sample of animal cells to kick off the process. This has led to some debate within the vegan and vegetarian communities.

Some argue that using animal cells goes against vegan and vegetarian principles, even if technically no animals are harmed. Others say that as long as the cells are obtained humanely, lab-grown meat can be considered vegan or vegetarian. At the end of the day, it’s up to individual consumers to decide whether lab-grown meat aligns with their beliefs and dietary choices.

Is synthetic meat more environmentally friendly?

One of the main selling points of lab-grown meat is its potential to be more environmentally friendly than traditional livestock farming.

Lab-grown meat production could use less land, water and energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2011 study estimated that cultured meat could reduce land use by 99%, water use by 96% and greenhouse gas emissions by 96%, when compared to conventional beef production. That’s a pretty significant difference.

What has been safety-approved in Australia?

So far, only one type of lab-grown meat has been approved in Australia. In December 2023 Australia’s food safety regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), completed its first assessment of lab-grown quail meat developed by Sydney company Vow.

The assessment found that the cell-cultured quail meat was safe for human consumption, with no identified health, nutrition or allergy risks. FSANZ also determined that it was genetically stable and had very low bacteria-related risks. FSANZ has proposed using the term “cell-cultured” in product labelling. 

When will lab-grown meat be available to buy in supermarkets?

The million-dollar question. The availability of lab-grown meat in supermarkets will depend on several key factors, such as regulatory approval, production scalability and consumer acceptance. Some companies, like Upside Foods and Mosa Meat, plan to bring products to market in coming years, but initial availability will likely be limited to specific regions or specialty stores.

In Australia, the timeline for lab-grown meat availability will depend on how quickly it can pass the safety assessment by FSANZ, and how ready companies are to bring their products to the Australian market. It’s hard to give an exact timeline, but it’s possible we could see lab-grown meat in Australian supermarkets within the next 10 years.

How much will cultured meat cost?

One of the biggest barriers standing in the way of widespread adoption of lab-grown meat has been the cost. However, prices have been steadily dropping as technology improves and production scales up. In 2013 the world’s first lab-grown burger cost a whopping AU $407,825 to produce — and it didn’t even come with fries. Since then, companies have made significant progress in reducing costs. 

As companies continue to optimise their production processes and scale up their operations, the cost of lab-grown meat is expected to keep falling. Some experts even predict that lab-grown meat could eventually be cheaper than conventional meat, thanks to increased efficiency and reduced resource use.

However, the timeline for achieving price parity is still uncertain and will depend on factors like technological advancements, regulatory approval and consumer demand.

The future of lab-grown meat

So, what does the future hold for lab-grown meat? It’s definitely an exciting development that could revolutionise the way we produce and consume meat. The potential benefits in terms of animal welfare, environmental sustainability and food security are huge.

However, many challenges remain, such as scaling up production, securing regulatory approval, and gaining consumer acceptance. Some people may be hesitant to try lab-grown meat, either because of concerns about safety or simply because the idea of “meat grown in a lab” sounds a bit off.

As with any new technology, it will be crucial to carefully assess the long-term impacts of lab-grown meat on public health, the environment and society as it continues to develop. 

But one thing is for sure – the future of food is looking pretty damn fascinating. Who knows — in a few years, you might be throwing a lab-grown steak on the barbie or ordering a cell-based chicken parma at your local.