Inside the labs creating meat from stem cells

The CBS News series Down to Earth is a partnership with Facebook Watch that showcases unique storytelling. In this installment, Seth Doane traveled to high-tech laboratories in Israel to see how slaughter-free meat is made.


This truly qualifies as "experimenting" in the kitchen, not the recipe, but the steak itself. At a laboratory near Tel Aviv, Aleph Farms is growing steak from the stem cells of cows. The CBS News crew reporting the story had to sign a waiver just to try it.

"We can produce meat more efficiently in a way which is more ethical, more sustainable and healthier," Aleph Farms CEO Didier Toubia said.

Environmentalists say we should be eating less meat. According to the United Nations, farming animals is one of the most dangerous sources of greenhouse gases and water pollution.

"Right now, most of the agriculture is there to feed the animals," Erel Margalit said.

Margalit is a billionaire investor in so-called "food technology," including what he calls "clean meat" made in the lab. He said humans cannot continue to eat the way we currently eat because the planet will not sustain it.

"We need to change the way agriculture and food are being produced," Margalit said.

At SuperMeat, they extract stem cells from chickens. Those stem cells can become any type of cell, so by tweaking the mix of proteins and amino acids, they can direct them to become whatever they need: muscle, fat or connective tissue.

"The beauty with cell-based meat is that once you've established the cell bank you don't need the chicken anymore," CEO Ido Savir said. "So, theoretically, one chicken could feed the world."

And, Savir added, they'll be able to produce exactly the "cuts" of meat desired. A vegan himself, Savir thinks there's also potential for consumers who object to killing an animal.

One of the many hurdles is the sci-fi aspect of all of this, and Savir hopes minds will be changed at the table with the first lab-produced meat likely served in restaurants within a few years.

And as to our taste of the future? It was surprisingly normal.

"I think that once it's massly produced and distributed it'll just be called 'meat' because that's what it is," Savir said.

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