European Food: Ms. Lucas, do you remember the first bite into one of your clean meat hamburgers – what thoughts crossed your mind?
Sarah Lucas: I haven't actually tried one of Mosa Meat's hamburgers, as I am new to the team. But in 2013 we held a public event in London where a panel of food experts tried our hamburger, and they recognized it as "meat". They said it was dry as at that stage we hadn't added fat, but they said it had the familiar texture of meat.
European Food: Mosa Meat has been working on cultured meat for several years now, still it seems to be a niche product. Why is it so difficult to upscale and enter the markets?
Sarah Lucas: It just takes time because scaling up an industry to the size of the current meat industry is a huge technological, financial and organizational challenge. Since the launch of our first hamburger in 2013, we have been focusing on optimizing the product (for example, by adding fat) and solving the big challenge of creating medium that does not contain Fetal Bovine Serum (the animal-based serum normally used in tissue culturing). We have just raised our first major fundraising, and in the next three years we're focused on creating a scalable production system, including the construction of a pilot plant. Once we have proof of scalability, we can accelerate upscaling, but this will necessarily take several years.
European Food: The ecological and ethical benefits of Mosa Meat’s products are evident. Still many people hesitate to commit pointing out the “laboratory background”. One more example of people putting fear before thought?
Sarah Lucas: I think it's natural that people have a gut reaction that "lab meat" is "unnatural" - that was my first thought when I heard about it too. But I've personally found and polling suggests that it doesn't take much for people to see the huge benefits of cultured meat. Usually it only takes thirty seconds to point out some of the benefits and also point out how unnatural livestock meat production is for people to put aside that initial gut reaction.
“Scaling up an industry to the size of the current meat industry is a huge technological, financial and organizational challenge.” Sarah Lucas
European Food: Cultured meat could be the cure for our current meat crisis generated by factory farming extensive livestock in other regions of the world. Would you agree, that possibilities for the use of cultured meat are endless?
Sarah Lucas: Yes, I think the potential benefits for cultured meat are enormous, for the environment, food security, animal welfare and our own health. For one example, livestock production is responsible for as many greenhouse gas emissions as the entire transport sector – all the roads on the cars and planes in the sky. It has been estimated that cultured meat production could generate up to 96% less emissions, and have a significant impact in mitigating climate change.
European Food: One final personal question: What is your favorite Mosa Meat product for a barbecue and why?
Sarah Lucas: Currently we are only focused on producing ground beef, both because cattle are the least efficient links in production, and because currently 3D structures are a long way off being technically feasible. So I would have to say a hamburger and, as an Australian who loves a barbie, I can't wait until Mosa Meat hamburgers are on supermarket shelves!
Interview: Markus Büssecker, Pictures: Mosa Meat