Case Study: Evolving In Vitro
A student project at Holon Institute of Technology, Israel dealing with cultured meat.
Food revolutions have taken place many times throughout history – starting from “hunting and gathering”, continuing with settlement societies, and followed by the Industrial Revolution – a system on which the modern western diet is based. The amount of meat we consume is much larger than the amount of meat we need in order to survive. As countries become richer, the consumption of meat increases. Additionally, raising animals for food requires massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water, as well as causing immense animal suffering. We are becoming more aware of the impact related to intensive animal farming. Not only the environmental and health issues but the ethical issues as well.
Cultured meat is a new field that is emerging as part of Cellular Agriculture – the fourth agricultural revolution and the next step in the evolution of our food. One of its main purposes is to manufacture animal-based food in a cleaner, more moral way. This industry embraces technologies enabling the use of animal cells in order to produce meat in laboratory conditions. Cultured meat removes many of the harms that current meat production is causing and changes the way we consume meat.
Evolving In Vitro is a speculative project that was born out of the understanding that we need to change the way we consume and produce meat, especially now that we possess the knowledge and techniques to do so. The research in this project included consultation with specialists in order to understand the logic of producing cultured meat. Produced cultured meat usually requires a structure on which animal stem cells grow, eventually becoming the meat we all know. The main structure, artificially produced, gives the cells an environment to grow by simulating the body of the animal. By creating porous structures, the cells can reproduce and grow to be connective tissue, muscle, and fat – eventually, the construction determines the 3D shape of the meat.
The technology implementation for this project is 3D printing. In this scenario the structure upon which the meat is grown is manufactured using a printer, infilled with biomaterial. This way we can control the design and architecture that are necessary for the stem’s growing process as well as to determine the 3D shape of the final product.
The research on the cultured meat industry revealed an innovative field that works on producing food in a cleaner and more moral way. At the same time, it works on creating processed products which in our opinion only increases the gap between two worlds: the natural and the artificial. The field of cultured meat is a new, dynamic field that is evolving. In its current stage, it is lacking an identity. The project deals with the need to try and produce this identity by maintaining a hybrid approach that could correlate between those two worlds.
The final outcome of the Evolving In Vitro project is a set of four speculative meat products inspired from four different archetypes and envisioned to be sold next to slaughtered animal meat before completely replacing it.
Shrimp – is an appetizer. One bite that you can eat using the sealed handle which remains bare.
Bone marrow – represents ancient times, it is designed for a sensory eating experience. By controlling the surface texture, the structure is made from a porous inner tunnel that functions as straw and enables the user to suck the marrow off the bone as our ancestors would.
Fish – refers to the poetry of anatomy. It is associated with the romantic act of sharing food. The construction refers to symmetric biology allowing two people to share it by “filleting” and removing the structure out of the meat which splits into two even portions. This act leaves a texture on the surface of the meat which refers to the texture of the fish scale as well as allowing the sauce to attach and assimilate better.
Ribs – inspired by social behaviours of sharing food and eating in groups. The ribs are produced as one package assembled from multiple units joined and made to be shared. Breaking each unit from the package while touching the non-porous (clean from meat) surface lets the user grab the rib and eat with his or her hands.
By using archetypes that are part of our collective memory we can mediate between the natural and artificial worlds. Each protein provides a different eating experience for different meal characteristics. The artificial structure is inspired by natural, primary biological anatomy. While other cultured meat developers try to reach edible structures, all structures in this project are not intended for eating in the first place. The structures are not only necessary for the cell’s growth process but also empower the eating experience.
The new proteins are aimed at the middle generation. A generation that is used to eating chicken off the bone, separating the fishbone from the fish, and most importantly – a generation that is aware of the destructive consequences that come with these actions. It is expected that our generation will experience difficulties adopting this new approach, unlike the next one, which will be born into a world in which cultured meat is common.
“Tissue engineering for clean meat production” Ben-Arye, S Levenberg – Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 2019. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?oi=bibs&cluster=3479641522557303684&btnI=1&hl=en
“A hypothesis to explain the role of meat‐eating in human evolution”
Katharine Milton , 02 June 1999. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/(SICI)1520-6505(1999)8:1%3C11::AID-EVAN6%3E3.0.CO;2-M
FOODPRINT ISSUE – Raising Animals in an Industrial System. http://foodprint.org/issues/raising-animals-industrial-system/
Survey of US Attitudes Towards Animal Farming and Animal-Free Food
Jacy Reese Anthi. https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/animal-farming-attitudes-survey-2017#main-results
“Technological, Regulatory, and Ethical Aspects of In Vitro Meat: A Future Slaughter‐Free Harvest” . Zuhaib F. Bhat James D. Morton Susan L. Mason Alaa El‐Din A. Bekhit Hina F. Bhat. 13 June 2019. http://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12473
The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat
Marta Zaraska. Basic Books, February 2016
“Meat the Future” – Liz Marshall, https://meatthefuture.com/
*The project was mentored by Ori Ben-Zvi, Head of the Industrial Design department at H.I.T. Holon Institute of Technology.
Yuval Yancovitch, a 29-year-old designer based in Tel-Aviv. Born and raised in Israel and Recently graduated from H.I.T – Holon institute of technology. She explores the relationship between people and the food system using product design methods.