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Actor-turned-venture capitalist and celebrity soap skeptic Ashton Kutcher and investing partner Guy Oseary have added a new company to the portfolio of start-ups they’ve financially supported. The funders are buying into MeaTech, an Israeli company that is at the forefront of what might be the future of meat. Rather than making something meat-like out of plants like the faux-meat brands of today, MeaTech and its investors are betting on what the company terms “cultured meat production processes based on advanced 3D bioprinting and tissue engineering technologies” – effectively actual meat, without killing an animal.
If you’re the type to think Impossible Burgers are “science meat,” MeaTech’s tech will sound like science fiction. While it’s still in early stages of development, the company thinks it has the process down. To create the cultured meat, an initial umbilical cord sample is taken from a cow or chicken (a process the company says does not harm the animal donor) and used to create cell lines that can indefinitely reproduce various different components of the animal’s tissue. Those cells then become the materials used by a specialized 3D printer that produces steaks, ground meat, or other products. In a demonstration last month, scientists used the technology to create a jar of fully cultivated chicken fat.
MeatTech’s founders believe that animal agriculture is unsustainable and wants to provide something for the current meat-eaters who just aren’t willing to give up the tastes and textures they’re used to. In the long term, the company is interested less in processed products like burgers, nuggets, and hot dogs and more on what they call “premium, center-of-plate meat products, such as structured, marbled steaks.”
“We are excited about MeaTech’s innovative technologies, which we believe position MeaTech to be the leader in industrial scale production of cultured meat, a key for a more sustainable and clean meat production,” Kutcher noted in an announcement of his investment in the brand. “The engagement with MeaTech is in line with our group’s mission to provide sustainable solutions.”
While Kutcher has been active on environmental and climate issues, he is reportedly not currently committed to a meat-free diet himself. When preparing for a film role as Steve Jobs, he did temporarily take on Jobs’s “fruititarian” veganism and habit of fasting, but decided not to stick with that regimen once the movie wrapped. Maybe 3D-printed meat will change Kucher’s mind.