Aston University has been named as one of the UK’s leading lights in what is predicted to be the future of food – lab–made meat.
The University is one of 17 higher education institutions expected to play a major role in developing cultivated meat.
Cultivated or lab-grown meat is made from cells taken from animals via biopsy. The cells are used to create meat that doesn’t involve animal slaughter. The process promises fewer greenhouse gases and a decrease in land required for production compared to traditional livestock.
Cellular Agriculture UK, a non-profit organisation promoting the UK’s so-called ‘cell-ag’ sector, has compiled a list of universities. Aston University is one of five institutions they chose to highlight in their report.
Aston University is described in the report as having the potential to be an anchor institution for cellular agriculture. It was highlighted for its research and teaching, public outreach work, links with emerging industries and its central location.
Dr Eirini Theodosiou, the senior lecturer in the School of lnfrastructure and Sustainable Engineering, focuses on ways to produce enough cell mass to create the meat. She said: “This is still a relatively new food technology. Unlike many others, we work on biomaterials for microcarriers/scaffolds for cultivated meat, which puts us in a very strong position, in the UK at least.”
Meanwhile, Dr Jason Thomas’ work explores the psychology behind supporting people to accept lab–made food. Although many people are willing to try it, many are still reluctant. A recent study of the US and UK found that 35% of meat eaters and 55% of vegetarians claimed they were too disgusted by the idea of cultured meat even to try it. A key goal of his research is how to support people to try it and integrate it into their diet.
Dr Thomas said: “We are interested in finding out what factors can influence consumer purchase of and consumption of lab–made meat.”
“The engineering/psychology link is one of our USPs and is something Aston University can capitalise on; learning what the consumer wants from cultivated meat and what would encourage them to consume it, using psychological science, and then incorporating this directly into the production process via engineering.”
“It is a relatively new food technology and much work still needs to be done to make it affordable, acceptable and on a massive scale, but it could easily end up being one of the most transformative new foods of the as.”