As the world’s meat consumption rises, food scientists are working to create healthier, better-tasting, and more sustainable plant-based protein products that mimic meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs. Over 100,000 genetically modified barley plants are being grown in an Icelandic greenhouse for an unexpected purpose: the production of lab-made meat.
The modified barley is harvested and refined in order to extract “growth factor” proteins, which can then be used to produce lab-grown meat. In the future, this innovation could reduce the reliance on live animals in the lab-grown meat industry.
Seeds from genetically modified barley plants are used in the production of lab-grown meat. Before a protein in the seeds, known as a growth factor, can be used, it must be harvested, milled, and purified. While animals provided the first growth factors, it is hoped that this barley plant method will be less expensive and more scalable.
ORF Genetics is currently conducting research to determine which barley produces the best growth factors. According to the BBC, researchers in Iceland are growing over 100,000 genetically modified barley plants inside a greenhouse for an unusual purpose: creating lab-grown meat.
The modified barley is harvested and purified to extract “growth factor” proteins, which can then be used to cultivate lab-grown meat — an innovation that may reduce the lab-grown meat industry’s reliance on live animals in the future.
Field to Steak
ORF Genetics, the company behind the greenhouse, is using high-tech hydroponic cultivation methods to grow the biogenetically engineered barley over 22,000 square feet. The growth factors extracted from barley seeds play an important role in stem cell maintenance. ORF launched a skincare product based on growth factors in 2010.
The modified barley is harvested and purified to extract “growth factor” proteins, which can then be used to cultivate lab-grown meat, an innovation that may reduce the lab-grown meat industry’s reliance on live animals in the future.Arna Runarsdottir
ORF Genetics in Iceland is growing 100,000 genetically engineered barley plants in a greenhouse measuring more than 22 square feet (2 square meters) in order to produce lab-grown meat. According to the BBC, this cutting-edge approach has the potential to lower prices, eliminate reliance on live animals in the lab-grown meat sector, and accelerate the scaling-up process. Given that meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases emitted by food production, such a development could have far-reaching implications in the fight against climate change.
After a little more than a decade, the company is hoping to enter the cell-cultured meat market. Growth factors promote the development of tissues that comprise these products, such as animal muscle and fat cells.
“The population is growing, and we need to feed everyone,” Arna Runarsdottir, director of protein technology at ORF Genetics, told the BBC.
If scientists can figure out how to mass-produce it, lab-grown meat would have a slew of advantages that could help feed the world. The modified barley is harvested and purified in order to extract ‘growth factor’ proteins, which are then used in laboratory meat cultivation. This breakthrough could help the meat industry become less reliant on live animals in the future.
ORF Genetics uses high-tech hydroponic cultivation methods to grow barley on more than 2,000 square meters. “We don’t have to kill all these animals; we just need the stem cells,” she added, noting that it’s a more viable and environmentally friendly option than conventionally grown meat.
These growth factors are important in stem cell maintenance, and the company, for example, released a skincare product containing them in 2010, and it is not entering the lab-grown meat market with its bio-risk-free growth factors called MESOkine.
MESOkine is a barley seed extract that contains purified recombinant growth factor as well as selected barley seed proteins and is marketed as a “novel, cost-effective, and highly scalable production technology” when compared to traditional growth factor sources.
True, the cost of producing cell-based meat has decreased over time. A Chinese biotech startup, for example, recently unveiled its lab-grown pork, with the goal of reaching cost parity with traditionally obtained pork by 2025. Still, growth factors are an expensive ingredient that prevents widespread production and commercialization, and MESOkine could help to change that.
“We are confident that ORF Genetics has the perfect production platform to drastically reduce the cost of growth factors in your cell-cultured meat production while also providing the required quantity,” said Liv Bergorsdottir, CEO of ORF Genetics.