Cell-cultured meat can surpass nutritional profile of conventionally farmed meat

Tufts University researchers have produced plant nutrients by genetically modifying the muscle cells of cows. These nutrients are not natively found in beef cells.

Beef

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Employing the same carotenoid pathway manipulated in golden rice, the researchers coaxed bovine cells into creating beta carotene—a provitamin often found in tomatoes and carrots.

While doing so, the researchers demonstrated that cell-cultured meat may be able to exceed the nutritional profile of traditionally farmed meat.

Cows don’t have any of the genes for producing beta carotene. We engineered cow muscle cells to produce this and other phytonutrients, which in turn allows us to impart those nutritional benefits directly onto a cultured meat product in a way that is likely infeasible through animal transgenics and conventional meat production.”

Andrew Stout, Study Lead Author and PhD Student, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tufts University

Published in the Metabolic Engineering journal, these findings are the proof of principle for applying cellular agriculture and genetic engineering to produce novel foods. Instead of simply imitating the meat presently found in grocery stores, cell-cultured meat products can assume various nutritional profiles, textures, shapes, and bioactivities.

Carcinogenicity, or rather, the lack thereof, is one such characteristic.

We saw a reduction in lipid oxidation levels when we cooked a small pellet of these cells when they were expressing and producing this beta carotene. Because that lipid oxidation is one of the key mechanistic proposals for red and processed meats’ link to diseases such as colorectal cancer, I think that there is a pretty compelling argument to be made that this could potentially reduce that risk.”

Andrew Stout, Study Lead Author and PhD Student, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tufts University

Nutritionally enhancing cultured meat products may boost the growing cellular agriculture industry required to compete with traditional meat. Even though producers of cultured meat have exponentially reduced the production cost across the last few years, the technology faces a tough battle in contending with a heavily subsidized status quo.

It will likely be challenging for cultured meat to be competitively competitively priced with factory-farmed meat right out of the gate. A value-added product which provides consumers with added health benefits may make them more willing to pay for a cultured meat product.”

David Kaplan, Study Corresponding Author and Stern Family Professor, Department of Engineering, Tufts University School of Engineering

Source:
Journal reference:

Stout, A. J., et al. (2020) Engineering carotenoid production in mammalian cells for nutritionally enhanced cell-cultured foods. Metabolic Engineering. doi.org/10.1016/j.ymben.2020.07.011.

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