A new research project aims to find a sustainable and ethically sound alternative to the animal-based growth medium that is used to produce cultured meat and milk. The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a grant of DKK 17.6 million to support this research.
Cell-based production of meat and milk is an alternative method of producing animal products instead of using livestock. The products can potentially contribute to sustainable food production because they require fewer livestock.
Nevertheless, cell-based production relies on an expensive process and pose ethical problems. The cells are cultivated in a growth medium that nourishes the cells and enables them to grow. Today, this medium contains fetal bovine serum extracted from calf fetuses. This creates both ethical and climate-related problems that require scientific solutions.
A new research project will therefore strive to find an alternative to avoid using fetal bovine serum in the process. The project is called Sustainable Production of Cultured Meat and Milk (SusCellFood), and the purpose is to develop a less expensive and more ethically sound way to produce cell-based meat and milk.
“This research project is important because we will develop a medium that is both ethically acceptable to consumers and cost-effective, making it less expensive and thus a real alternative to fetal bovine serum, which we use today to develop cultured meat and milk,” says Jette Feveile Young, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science, Aarhus University, who will lead the research project.
Supporting future alternative food production
In the project, the researchers will develop technologies that use nutrients from yeast and algae in combination with growth factors to replace the fetal bovine serum. This will provide a less expensive and more climate-friendly culturing method that is also ethically sound.
The Novo Nordisk Foundation expects that the project can contribute to establishing a strong research ecosystem within potential cell-based food production in the future.
“Cell-based production of meat and milk has the potential to support the alternative production of existing food products, but technological and scientific progress is needed in this area. We expect that the research in SusCellFood will contribute to this development and that the results can be another biotechnological advance in the green transformation of our food production,” says Claus Felby, Senior Vice President, Biotech, Novo Nordisk Foundation, which has awarded a grant of DKK 17.6 million to support the project.
The project will last 4 years, and the research will primarily be carried out in collaboration between Aarhus University and the Technical University of Denmark, Kongens Lyngby. In addition, several researchers located outside Denmark who are experts in cultured food production will be involved.