We Solve for X: Andras Forgacs on sustainable, scalable meat

We Solve for X: Andras Forgacs on sustainable, scalable meat


[MUSIC PLAYING] I’m here to talk about
fundamentally rethinking how we grow some of our most basic
agricultural products like meat and leather. Now, why is this an
important problem? Well, it’s an important problem
because how we obtain our food has always been a
cornerstone of how we live. If you go back more than
10,000 years ago, our ancestors, when population
was a lot smaller– we only had in the
low millions, people on the planet– they were hunters
and gatherers. They had to go to where
the food was. And meat was very,
very scarce. It was only available after
a successful hunt. And it was distributed strictly
based on status. It was not until the invention
of agriculture and the domestication of animals that
we finally were able to have permanent human settlements. And this greater food security
and this abundance of calories allowed us to free up time,
time that we could use to develop trades, to create
knowledge, pursue art, science, and lay the
cornerstones of modern civilization. Now, fast forward it to today. There have been tremendous
advances in conventional agriculture and the distribution
channels surrounding that that have
enabled very, very high value, high nutrition items to be
abundant and convenient. So for example, meat, in most
developed countries, it is widely available. It is affordable. It comes in very convenient
form factors. You can grab it on the go. You can take it with
you as you drive. And you can eat it at work. And this has supported not
only the Industrial Revolution, not only
urbanization, but it has also supported a tremendous growth
in population over the last couple hundred years. I love meat. I’m a meat eater. And it was not until a few
years ago that I really started thinking about where it
comes from it, and its true cost, and its true
limitations. And let me tell you why some
of the numbers are really puzzling to me. Take a simple hamburger. To make a quarter pound
hamburger requires nearly seven pounds of grain, of feed
stock to produce that. And to irrigate that feed stock
and to have the animal drink requires nearly 600
gallons of water just for that quarter pound hamburger. And that’s the equivalent of
showering for six weeks. So you can either have a
hamburger or you can shower for a month and a half. To grow that feed stock and to
allow a grazing land for that animal requires about 75
square feet of land. And the energy that’s required
in growing the feed stock and transportation of the feed stock
and of the animal is over 1,000 BTUs, which is
about the equivalent of charging your smartphone
30 times. And perhaps most shockingly, the
amount of greenhouse gases that are released throughout
this entire process are about 13 pounds of CO2 equivalent,
in the form of CO2 and methane. And that is the equivalent of
driving a car 25 miles. So take those numbers and
multiply them by 1,000, and this gives you an impression of
what the footprint is of a typical consumer per year. Because the average American
eats over 220 pounds of meat per year. And if you look globally,
today, we have seven billion people. And these seven billion people
are supported today by 60 billion land animals. It’s more than ever before
in our history. And over the next 30, 40 years,
the global population is growing to nine billion. And there’s a greater wealth
effect, primarily in emerging markets, that’s driving
greater and greater consumption of meat. So diets are shifting more
to a Western diet. And so the demand for meat is
expected to nearly double, which means that the demand for
land animals is going to increase to be about
100 billion. So the problem here is that
we’re already hitting planetary resource limits. Today, one third of all
available ice-free land is used for livestock. It’s used for grazing
and growing feed crops for livestock. We’re running out of land. 8% of the global water
supply is used for the livestock industry. And by some estimates, 18%
of greenhouse gases are attributed to the livestock
industry. Some estimates actually place
this higher, up to 50%. But either way you look at it,
this livestock industry is the leading contributor to
greenhouse gases, ahead of any other sector, which means that
we could get everything else right in terms of carbon
abatement for transportation, for energy. We could be entirely clean
in those sectors. And if we don’t do anything
about this, the effects here will more than offset
gains there. And then add to this issues
around food security, around disease risk as we concentrate
our herds. There’s every year issues of
outbreak, of foot and mouth disease, E. coli, et cetera. And then the intensity of
chemical use– chemicals, antibiotics, pesticides, to
say nothing, of course, of animal welfare issues. Now, if we don’t watch out, some
of the worst nightmare images from science fiction
could become our environmental reality. But the big idea is what if we
could fundamentally rethink how we make animal products,
if we could grow meat and leather in ways that don’t
require raising, slaughtering, and transporting animals? And if we can do that, it would
require much less land, much less water, energy,
and of course, it wouldn’t harm animals. Now, I’m going to tell you why
this seemingly crazy idea is timely, why it is actually now
technologically possible, and why it is actually
not so crazy. This idea actually has
a long history. Going back as far as the 1930s,
Churchill himself wrote that if you think about
it, the way we raise our animals is absurd. There should be a better way to
do it if we grow only the parts that we need without
having to actually raise, slaughter, and transport
animals. And Churchill was way
ahead of his time. But since then, there have
been developments in biotechnology that have
been very fundamental. There’s been innovations
in cell culture. There’s been, over the last
two decades, really big innovations in a field called
regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. And the first company that
I co-founded, Organovo, pioneered a form of tissue
engineering known as bioprinting where our goal,
essentially, is to digitize how we grow tissue. And at the root of bioprinting,
what we do is we take cell aggregates that are
composed of tens of thousands of cells, and we
organize them. We deposit them in layers
and patterns that then fuse together. So the cells actually start to
behave exactly as they would in nature, where the processes
of embryonic development take over and the cell aggregates
fuse together and cells can sort out. And you’re able to take these
cell aggregates, and they can fuse together in pretty
sophisticated ways. So you have an example,
basically, of cell aggregates fusing together to form a sheet
in the upper right hand. And in more complex structures,
you can actually create things like branching
vasculature, where you have cell aggregates that we’ve
deposited that can fuse together to form a blood vessel,
which is a multi-layer blood vessel composed of
different types of cells. So we started to think of
ourselves, well, gosh, if we can make with Organovo tissues
that are to a very high medical, pharmaceutical grade
that pharmaceutical companies are using for drug testing and
drug development, that we’re developing to meet therapeutic
applications, to make textile and food-grade tissue is
actually an easier problem. It’s an engineering problem. The science has been
significantly derisked. If we can, in medical
applications, make living tissues that are functional– if you think about
leather and meat, they’re no longer living. And they don’t have to serve
a biological function. And we also don’t need to worry
about issues of immune compatibility. So, applied to meat, this is how
our approach would work at a high level. You take the most perfect donor
animal that lives a very happy life. And you take a biopsy of its
muscle, of its fat for making meat, of its skin for the
purposes of making leather. And you isolate the
cells you need. So in the case of skin,
it’s fibroblast. In the case of muscle, it’s
muscle cells, it’s adipocytes, endothelial cells, et cetera. You isolate these cells and you
proliferate them in tissue culture medium. So you go from millions of cells
that you have from the biopsy to billions of cells. And then you deposit them in a
three dimensional pattern in ways that they fuse together in
two dimensions, and then in three dimensions, according to
the processes that I told you about, bioprinting, a form
of biofabrication. And then we can actually, in
the case of meat, perfectly marble it and get the right
kind of fat in there. And then we grind it up in its
first version, creating ground up meat products like pates,
and sausages, and deli products, with the right kind of
nutritional content, better kind of fat, et cetera. And we’ve actually tried and
tasted our own cooking. So two years ago at TEDMED,
our scientific founder and chief scientific officer, my
father, Gabor Forgacs, actually unveiled a little pork
chop that we had made without killing a pig. And he cooked it and
ate it on stage. And I’ve also sampled our
cooking last year. And we’re both alive and well. And now we’re working with some
of the leading chefs in the US to perfect this into a
delicious a food item, to get the mouth feel, the texture,
and the flavor right. And in the case of leather, I
should say I have a sample of leather here that I’d like to
show you if you’d like to see. So, one of the other advantages
of this is it enables us a degree of openness
and transparency that has not really been possible
in the food industry. It’s unlikely that you’ll
gain easy access to a slaughter house. And if you do see an animal get
killed and processed, it is unlikely that you’re going to
maintain your appetite and then want to go eat meat right
afterwards, whereas by contrast, the facilities that
we would develop could be located in or near
urban centers. So it would significantly
shorten the supply chain. And they would operate like
microbreweries, where the public could come in and visit
and actually see how the sausage gets made and then
sample the products right afterwards. Let’s talk about cost
for a moment. So, over the last 40 years,
the price of beef and pork have gone up five times. And if you project this forward
for the next 40 years, because of the factors we’ve
talked about, growing population, growing wealth
effect, and demand for meat, prices are going to go
up non-linearly. And add to this the fact that
these negative externalities, these negative environment
externalities eventually will have to be priced in. And there’s always pressure on
government subsidies for these industries. So if you look at these
potential factors, prices are inevitably going to go up for
these materials, for beef, pork, and chicken. Overlay that with the cost
of cultured meat. Today, it’s pretty expensive. In our lab, it costs thousands
of dollars to make a pound. But we’re not operating
at industrial scale. We’re operating at a very, very
small proof of concept scale right now. And we have specific ways that
we forecast being able to reduce the price– optimizing our cells, optimizing
our medium, and being able to develop the
processes and the hardware, the automation that allows us
to really scale production. That allows us to get from
thousands of dollars a pound to hundreds of dollars a
pound and then below. And at that point, until you
become cost competitive with beef, we are going to be
a premium product. We’re going to focus on high
value applications, for example, in leather in
the fashion industry. And as we get better and better
at producing this in volume and scaling this, we’re
going to become cost competitive with expensive
kinds of meats and then eventually, with more commodity grade kinds of meats. So the long- term at-scale
cost pictures are also supported by these
aggregate facts. A study out of Europe shows that
cultured meat production would ultimately require
99% less land. It would require
96% less water. It would release 96% fewer
greenhouse gases and require about half as much energy. So these steady state impacts
really support a long-term cost perspective. So if we can get this technology
right and if we can mainstream it, then it supports
a different positive vision from science fiction, one
where we can locally grow on-demand, cruelty free,
sustainably, abundant amounts of meat and leather in a way
that can protect and preserve our future on this planet
and potentially beyond. Thank you very much. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Author:

83 thoughts on “We Solve for X: Andras Forgacs on sustainable, scalable meat”

  • I am 100% behind this!! Been waiting for ages for governments to put all they can into this technology!! Can you imagine what it would do to poverty when they manage to make it cost effective!!?? Plus veggies can get off my back for eating their pets!…. 😛

  • This whole speech and all of his numbers and facts are based on the idea that we would not improve our current ag practices. Things like permaculture and appropriate crop rotations and land management can dramatically reduce his alarmist numbers.

  • It is unreasonable to expect much more efficiency out of livestock. Turning nutrients into muscle cells is much more efficient than feeding "normal" livestock with all its overhead–Brain, bones, ligaments, skin, hair, plus all the energy that's wasted moving around. Livestock will still have to build all those ancillary systems and "waste" its input, even if you put it in a tiny cruel cage.

    I fully believe petri meat will be way more cost effective, especially when replacing large animals.

  • You can probably get the sample after the animal has passed. And even if this were not so, all he is talking about is a a biopsy. People get biopsy's all the time. You get your sample, and can grow much more meat with it.

  • I'm all for this, but let's keep the issues in mind: it's likely that these meat cultures will require even more antibiotics to keep them bacteria-free than present day farm animals.

  • Why? You can store these meat cultures at low temperatures. Can't really do that with most cows. Since most antibiotics target livestock before it is killed, why would you think meat cultures would require more antibiotics?

  • When the human came to life the food chain changed and some animals stepped beneath the human's place. Actually vegans are wrong in this endless discussion of eating animals = bad. They try to change the natural food chain again. So, who will feed from pigs/cows/chicken etc. and provide new life etc.? Since the human populated all land on earth those animals will just live a useless life helping nor human nor any other animals.

    besides, creating meat for humanity synthetically will take ages.

  • No thanks. Scientists haven't even done enough tests on GMO, Aspartame, and other synthetic foods, yet you want us to trust this technology?

    Here's a revelation for you: no computers are needed to grow food, all you need is dirt, water, and seeds.

  • DarkRenaissance2012 says:

    why is she a moron? She is showing legitimate concern for the harm that this might cause. Why not help people understand and expand their knowledge instead of displaying with insulting anger that you "know more than they do" ??

    just a thought, Peace

  • DarkRenaissance2012 says:

    How do we know they are ( and will be ) fine and well?
    Do you expect their heads to explode suddenly when they take a bite? lol

  • Thanks DarkRenaissance2012. If I was such a moron I wouldn't even question it at all. And as you mentioned, it wouldn't be a sudden death, toxins build up over years. This is freaking frankinfood.

  • We really should just engineer Frankenstein Monsters®, with whatever ooey-gooey bits we want, use them to do some heavy lifting (to soften up the delicious muscles) then murder, ah, slaughter them and then… BBQ time! Yum-yum, I’m salivating already.

  • So since we haven't screwed up our bodies enough with all of our genetically modified food, now we want to GROW chunks of meat in a lab, inject it with vitamins and "flavor", and then make us eat it? There are other ways to deal with the environmental/energy problems associated with the meat industry. This will only bring more problems than it solves. Plus he said "pattés". Thats so weird

  • This is so painful. His quoted numbers are meaningless with grass fed meat. Growing this in a lab is NOT going to show the efficiency of photosynthesis+herbivore.

  • appreciate the innovation here but maybe our problem is over population and dietary imbalance + even if you succeed in attaining significant market share regardless of what you inject these synthetic "meats" with it will never be fresh and organic meat thus turning real meat into a delicacy that will be sought after with greater demand…

  • My main concern is how far this might go. Yes, this is great for ending the slaughter of animals for us to eat and possible put better vitamins in the meats themselves. But will this lead to: milk, wool, eggs, veg stables, fruits and even fish? Will this down the line of maybe 100yrs end farming? Make more room for the human population to grow because now we can just pump out food without fearing to not have enough land to grow it on? 😡

  • He never said anything about not producing green house gases. If you paid attention, you would see a chart that said it would cost 45% less energy, and therefore produce a lot less green house gas.

  • I am not being a critic, I am literally asking is there a way that we could completely remove the need for fossil fuels from the process. It seems that in essence that is the goal of this technological age.

  • Casey Thormahlen says:

    What a horrible world this technology will help create. A world where the population of sentient humans is not constrained by scarcity or environmental impact. Yes, that sounds truly heinous…

    Wut?

  • There is far to many humans as it is. I personally think our population will keep growing till we outgrow the world. Unlike other species of animals where their population is controlled by its environment, humans push past and over come. Which results is over population. It might sound dark, but I feel we are in need for some form of population control. Just because we can have over 10billian humans and keep growing doesn't mean it's a good idea . . .

  • Which numbers are meaningless ? A herbivore animal is also not efficient. Most of the feed is wasted anyway: you don't get 100% output for the nutrition and energy the animal is fed. If the resources that are used to feed the animal are used to produce vegetables one can eat directly, than that is the most efficient we can get right now.

  • You did not read my comment very thoroughly, I said GRASS FED. The sustainability problem clearly centers on the huge inefficiencies of oil inputs to produce grain, which is then shunted to inappropriately feed cattle. Cows evolved to eat grass, not grains.

  • Before, you were able to raise chickens in your backyard, soon you will need a Biochemistry PhD if you want to feed yourself and your family. It will be so much easier for the government to control and withhold food from the populations they already want to [exterminate] depopulate. This already happened with Monsanto, their GMO sterile seeds make sure you are slave to them and the government for most of the food Americans consume.

  • Yes, cows eat grass. But grass needs to grow too. And grass crops have much lower yield than cereal crops. And cows are not 100% efficient. Most of the nutrition value of the crops that are fed to the animal are not returned 100% in the meat it produces. Most of the nutrition is wasted during the animal's life cycle. And that's the point: no mater how you turn the equation, using resources to feed animals is much more wasteful than using them directly to produce plants for people.

  • WillofNewZealand says:

    Hi, The One Print burger, or One print cheese burger as licenced at Thingiverse
    thing:21332
    As you can see i'm the only person allowed to make commercial use of this thing.
    100 million dollars is my price.
    Thank you.
    Bye for now and be well 🙂 :]

  • Sharath Jeppu says:

    Is this the reason why it is called Freakonomics? When nature has already engineered it for you, we have this urge to engineer it all over again. This whole calculation of energy and resources does not sound right. A self sustainable village economy achieves the perfect balance without this complex technological requirement.

  • You are describing a system devoid of animal predation…that's not how biology works. India has a cattle population of nearly 300 million… these are NOT utilizing resources that could go to humans, they are passively producing calories in the form of dairy, converting grasses to human compatible nutrition. In the 1800's the bison population of the plains was nearly as large as todays feed-lot cattle. During the recent drought, native grassees were unaffected while corn withered.

  • …and they produce manure to fertilize the ground. Cows as all other animals are part of natural cycles, no problem with that. My argument is in regards to massive meat production for human consumption. That is a big waste of resources, and with rising population, more demand for meat will perpetuate the current situation of parts of the world population not having access to those resources and the food they could produce. We only have 1 planet, yet westerners consume as if we had 3 or 4.

  • Evil westerners…no female genital mutilation or stoning for adultery! What I'm suggesting is no gov subsidies of food production, this will gut the mega-food production and force sustainability. Remover the gov, let the market determine what level of production is sustainable.

  • Oh please, no patronizing. I'm european. I had not seen that suggestion from you. And I agree with it. Subsidizing of the food industry has been historically done to make food affordable for all, but that distorts completely the market and creates unsustainable consumption patterns. If any, subsidies should be given to people in goods, not money. Governments should not subsidize corporate profit (at least not directly). I think that would be a good way to adjust consumption patterns.

  • Laura Tomlinson says:

    Amazing, this would solve a lot of problems. Higher demand for meat means that animal welfare is taking a back seat; animals are crowded into factories, given antibiotics in their food and GM to grow at a faster rate to decrease production time. This affects the animal growing e.g chickens bones break b'cause of lack of vit D and burn themselves in their own ammonia from their faeces.Consumers are at a higher risk of resistance to anti-biotics, no new antibiotics being developed. I'd be worried!

  • WillofNewZealand says:

    Epic, which way shall they jump, value and buy me out, don't value licences and licence values end all over,don't do anything and licences hold value and i remain the only person that can make commercial use of One print burger ,so you can make burgers in a single print for free but no money can be made,ending capitilizium for this line of products and products licenced this way.
    I'd like to think i'd be paid out so money can continue to be made but its up to those with money. End money or not?

  • Joel Salatin already solved this problem a few decades ago in a much more "natural" and carbon-friendly way.
    watch?v=gAHGbbjenhI
    He claims that if all US beef were raised with his methods we could re-sequester all the CO2 emitted since the industrial revolution in 10 years.

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    Well, since the Evil Ones control everything and nobody else can accomplish anything, let's all just die. I mean, if all is hopeless.

    This tissue culturing technology is worthwhile, even if it doesn't single-handedly solve every problem in the world.

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    I agree, and of course there's no reason we can't improve agriculture too. After all, people will still eat fruits, grains, and vegetables.

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    He's actually promoting technology to allow nine billion people to live a good life. That way, we don't NEED any depopulation. There can be enough for all.

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    I wish you guys would occasionally consider the possibility that a few people are NOT part of the grand conspiracy. If Agenda 21 is real, they will HATE this guy, because he's working on making sure that there will be enough for everybody. Which means you don't NEED depopulation.

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    It's meat. It's exactly the same molecules you find in a hamburger, sausage, or chicken noodle soup. The original sample actually comes from a cow, pig, or chicken.

    So the only way this is going to be poisonous is if beef, pork, and chicken are already poisonous. In which case what's the difference?

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    Poorly said, and false.

    You need the right temperatures (which is why they don't grow pineapple in Alaska); you need to control pests ("plague of locusts" and all); you need a lot of energy, which can be provided by farmers, slaves, draft animals, diesel, or electricity.

    And of course you need know-how. If you don't know how to plant (just throwing it on the ground usually isn't enough), care for, and harvest your crop properly, you'll starve.

    And what has that got to do with meat, anyway?

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    Thank you. Somebody has to put out some facts, even if the "frankenfood" crowd prides themselves on not caring about facts. Just in case it's read by somebody who does care.

    Also, Andras Forgacs' reply was not spam, and whoever marked it as such is a liar.

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    These are not synthetic "meats;" these are real meat grown from a sample taken from a real animal. Exactly the same molecules as in the killed-an-animal-for-it meat. Exactly the same molecules as in the uses-lots-of-water-and-land meat. It's the same substance. It isn't made of plastic.

    And let the rich delicacy-hunters… hunt. Ranches could become hunting preserves, and hunters can kill their own meat. I'm cool with that.

    Maybe we agree more than I thought.

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    The printers and such could be powered by electricity from fossil fuels, nuclear, hydro, solar, wind, geothermal… anything that makes electricity.

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    Well, this guy is making sure that everybody who wants meat, will be able to have it. The nigh-inevitable age of abundance means that poverty will join polio on the list of problems solved. We won't need depopulation. Any elites wanting to keep everybody in poverty will be able to cause a stink for a while, but will eventually be swept aside by the rolling tide of history.

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    "The Anglo/American Empire creates nothing but death and destruction."

    Then why is polio basically a memory? Smallpox a part of the past? Why are murder, rape, and assault down while volunteerism, high school graduation and food production are up? A teenage boy recently invented a new test for pancreatic cancer, and nobody stopped him.

    If the global elites want everything to go to hell, they're failing.

  • Sailor Barsoom says:

    You've got something there with the limited ownership of news outlets. Even if that isn't an intentional global elite thing, it has much the same effect as if it were.

    I didn't read "Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars." I've got a lot of stuff to read, to watch. I'm not going to be able to get to everything.

  • Let me get this straight, these wack jobs can "print" a single LB of meat for "thousands of dollars", which would mean even if they can go into full scale production and (somehow?) cut there costs down by oh let's say, 99% (good luck with that) their new and improved printed meat will still cost OVER 20 dollars a LB. LMAO how stupid. 

  • Only  35% of a cow is usable in human consumption, the other 65% is practically wasted, if we really want a more efficient world we have to use these techniques, cultivating only the part we eat, muscles with a better use of energy, minerals and water. if not, we can apeak bullshit about the hunger in the world, our governments can host any amount of summits and nothing will change never.

  • In the future Everything will be designed, humans will do engineering everywhere, that level of control will cause the price to drop but population will not grow over 9,5 billion people, because the birth rate in cities is not enough to maintain a fast growth like that of the 20 century, so people will live longer and better but to 2100 the world population will be of 5 billions and most of the economy will be fully controled by A.I. so there will be not economic crisis.
    In effect thanks to nanotechnology the trash will not exist.
    The crime will dissapear due to smart nanocameras, drones, smart machines there will be not place to hide, even now there are some developed countries with almost zero murders, that will be the rule in the future.

  • Richard Kessler says:

    Diet is a culturally conditioned behavior. Cost is a universal concern. Make a better hamburger and deliver it to market for less and the product will be commercially successful. Typically, externality based costs such greenhouse gas emissions cannot be taxed to the source point of emissions. Other costs such as land and energy do go into the production costs of meat. In the end consumer preference and market forces become and should be the determinative facts because they remain the most efficient means of allocating scarce resources for various competing and conflicting ends.

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