Lab-grown Meat Produced in Space for First Time Aboard International Space Station

An Israeli start-up has successfully cultured lab-grown meat in space—the first time this has been achieved.

In a proof-of-concept experiment, Aleph Farm—in collaboration with partners 3D Bioprinting Solutions, Meal Source Technologies and Finless Foods—produced the meat aboard the International Space Space Station, which orbits the Earth at an average altitude of about 250 miles.

The latest method, which requires less resources than traditional animal farming,could potentially be used in future to produce food on long space missions, according to the company. They also say that the technique could have important implications for cultivating lab grown meat on Earth.

"In space, we don't have 10,000 or 15,000 liters (3,962 gallons) of water available to produce one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef," Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms, said in a statement.

"This joint experiment marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources," he said.

To create the cultivated beef steaks, Aleph Farms devised a method which mimics the natural process of tissue regeneration inside a cow's body.

The company harvested cow cells on Earth before launching them to the ISS. In the Russian segment of the space station, astronauts then created small-scale muscle tissue from the cells using a 3D bioprinter in the microgravity conditions.

The company say the experiment demonstrates that this cell cultivation process can generate food using minimal resources.

"This cutting-edge research in some of the most extreme environments imaginable, serves as an essential growth indicator of sustainable food production methods that don't exacerbate land waste, water waste, and pollution," the company said in a statement. "These methods are aimed at feeding the rapidly growing population, predicted to reach 10 billion individuals by 2050."

Yoav Reisler, a spokesperson for Aleph Farms, also said that the technology could help to cut down on food waste.

"We have the ability to produce quality food anytime, anywhere and to anyone, even in the harshest conditions imaginable," Reisler told Newsweek. "Cultivated meat serves as a solution to combat food waste. Today, one third of all food produced is wasted, while on the other hand, close to one billion people suffer from malnutrition."

"The main reason is that food today is not produced when and where it is needed to be produced. We are proving that cultivated meat can be produced anytime, anywhere and in any condition," he said. "Such an approach would grant better access to high-quality nutrition for all people, but also would avoid any spoilage of food during transportation or storage."

Recent scientific research has highlighted how traditional animal farming is a significant driver of climate change, and that cutting down on meat and dairy products is one of the best ways for individuals to curb their carbon footprint.

Lab-grown meat has been touted as one potential way to help mitigate the environmental impact of the animal farming industry as demand for meat rises around the world. At the moment no true lab-cultivated meat products are commercially available, however, this situation could change in the next few years as technology improves.

"The mission of providing access to high-quality nutrition anytime, anywhere in a sustainable way is an increasing challenge for all humans," Jonathan Berger, CEO of The Kitchen, said in a statement. "On Earth or up above, we count on innovators like Aleph Farms to take the initiative to provide solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems, such as the climate crisis."

In December 2018, Aleph Farms announced that it had produced the world's first lab-grown steak with a muscle-like texture, although they admitted at the time that the taste needed work.

ISS, International Space Station
The International Space Station photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking. NASA