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 word “imitation” does not imply non-animal. For example, imitation crab meat is a made by blending processing surimi fish with various flavours, colours and texturising agents. It has been in existence since the mid-1970s with sales continuing to rise.

The 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.

The starting ingredients in fermented synthetic biology products are cheap sugars derived from GE (Genetically Engineered) corn and soy. All GE crops are grown in environmentally destructive monocultures, and use loads of herbicides such as glyphosate, pesticides like neonicotinoids and synthetic fertilisers, as a result of which they are loaded with chemical residues.

Not really Vegan

Lab-created fake meat and dairy are ultra-processed and qualify as junk food.

According to a (the most popular alternative-health website on the internet) analysis “Cultured meats are ultra-processed and therefore likely to cause health problems similar to those caused by other ultra-processed products, such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, Type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, mental health problems and increased all-cause mortality. The starting ingredients in the new fermented synthetic biology products are cheap sugars derived from genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy. GE crops are grown in environmentally destructive monocultures that use loads of herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. As a result, they’re loaded with chemical residues. In addition to a base of sugars, hundreds of other ingredients may be added to the ferment in order to produce the desired end product, such as a certain protein, colour, flavour or scent. The most-often used micro-organism in the fermentation process is gene-edited E.coli. While traditional fermentation processes, such as making beer, produce waste products that are edible by animals, compostable and post no biohazard, the bio-waste from these synthetic biology ferments must first be deactivated, and then must be securely disposed of. It cannot go into a landfill. Making food that produces hazardous bio-waste is hardly a sustainable model. Lab-grown meats are also an environmental disaster in the making. Their impact is far more akin to that of the pharmaceutical industry than the food industry.”

Although many plant-based meat alternatives claim to be made primarily from plants, they aren’t all that different from ultra-processed food products (that cause health problems) and can very well contain concealed animal derived substances. They contain added vitamin B12 (can be of animal origin) and zinc in amounts greater than both red meat and poultry, not to forget the positively harmful high sodium content, saturated fat levels and excessive amounts of amino acids. In short, it is unfortunate that fake meat burgers are being masqueraded not only as vegan but as health foods which they aren’t. Fake meat and dairy can in fact cause worse health issues than other highly processed foods.

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 by Eat Just.

In 2022 an article in a leading publication stated that mock meat was gaining ground in India. People who felt guilty eating animals were having it instead. Burgrill’s green meat pounder was launched on the first day of Navaratri in October 2021. They “use a process of exclusion and use isolated protein from chickpea, soya and pea to make the patty” (wonder exactly what the exclusion process is).

In November 2022 the US Food and Drug Administration gave permission to Upside Foods for their lab-grown or cultivated chicken from cells. Such cultivated meat is grown in a vat, copying stem cells extracted from a live animal or from the ovaries of a newly slaughtered animal. The vat is also filled with serum containing amino acids, sugar and other nutrients needed for the cells to grow like a starter, and after growing for 3 weeks the cells are shaped into forms like chicken breasts.

Similarly in March 2023 Eat Just received permission to sell their products under the name “cell-cultivated chicken”.

An Israeli company Steakholder Foods claims to “3D print” steak and fish using animal cells stored – muscles, fat, etc. However, we must remember the flesh produced is 100% animal in origin. Another Israel-based company Aleph Farms bioprints cow cells to create ribeye steak. The Osaka University have come up with 3-D printed beef. There is no regulatory framework specific to 3D-printed meat from the FDA or the US Dept of Agriculture and it is considered a “novel food”.

A UK company called Moolec has created transgenic soya beans called “Piggy Sooy” in which a quarter (26.6%) of the protein is pig protein in place of plant protein. The company is also creating pea plants that contain beef proteins. It claims that the products will provide similar taste, texture and nutritional value as meat, but without the high costs associated with cultured meat production. They justified themselves by pointing out that 98% of all soy grown in the USA is GM and the success of Impossible Foods (mentioned above) shows that consumers aren’t deterred by GM products.

With reference to the above mentioned plants states about “Pig Beans – the latest GMO Frankenfood: Researchers have discovered that CRISPR-Cas gene editing wreaks havoc in the plant genome, causing several hundred unintended genetic changes to occur simultaneously ‘in a catastrophic event’ that ripples across large parts of the genome... because these changes are impossible to predict, gene edited plants cannot be assumed safe.”

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 – without any fake flesh and milk.

A frequently heard justification used to promote virtually any fake animal derived foods, is to prevent and reverse climate change, but in reality their production perpetuates and worsens adverse effects on the environment. Moreover, fake meat is actually an ultra-processed mixture of chemicals, GE ingredients, pesticides and toxic linoleic acid that promotes chronic disease. Animal-free dairy products are no better.

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? McDonald’s and Beyond Meat announced a 3-year partnership in early 2021. (They sell McPlant burgers in some countries.) And by January 2022 KFC collaborated with Beyond Meat to launch plant based meat nuggets in USA. Beyond Meat also has a global partnership with Yum.

ITC Master Chef IncrEdible brand launched burger patties and nuggets pan-India by “targeting non-vegetarians who are looking at animal protein replacements”. Others who have been selling such products are GoodDot, Blue Tribe, Imagine Meats, Shaka Harry and Tata Simply Better.

A September 2021 report states that India’s mock meat market is estimated at $30-40mn, largely driven by consumer packaged food, and its size is likely to touch $500mn in 3 years. In other words, vegetarians and vegans are being encouraged to consume it. The claim by manufacturers that 9 out of 10 who consume it are non-vegetarian is unlikely.

It seems lab grown fish meat has been researched in Israel, USA, Singapore and Korea.

In 2024 researchers at the Yonsei University in South Korea created rice grains with beef and cow fat cells grown inside them. The stem cell production process began by culturing the muscle, fat and fish gelatine covered rice for 10 days, resulting in pale pink hybrid rice which they hoped would be a sustainable source of protein.

It’s no different here, also in 2024 the Indian Council of Agricultural Research signed an agreement with a startup to develop cell based lab-grown meat of marine species, i.e. fish meat of king fish, pomfret and seer fish. For this the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) entered into a collaborative research agreement with Neat Meatt Biotech, a startup working on cultivated meat. The CMFRI aimed to propel India in cultured marine fish meat or lab gown fish meat that is produced by isolating specific cells from the fish and growing them in the lab. Although animal component free media may be used in the lab, the fact remains that the base of such fish meat is fish cells and therefore non-vegetarian.

For detailed information on Veganism please read

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 and got the order in our favour. 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.

Academic food critic and historian Shri Pushpesh Pant feels mock meat demand has been created by the market. He says “Indians have sustained themselves on a plant-based diet, a legacy deeply rooted in our rich culinary heritage. It is no exaggeration to say that, with the exception of a small minority, the Indian masses have historically adhered to a diet that was not only vegetarian but also largely vegan and organic. The foundation of Indian cuisine has always been grains, legumes, lentils and seasonal vegetables such as squashes, eggplants and yams. No one in India ever felt the need for mock meats or plant-based milks. The emerging trend of plant-based alternatives is driven by marketing tactics employed by food industry giants seeking to capture the vast Indian market.”

Page last updated on 29/03/24