Roslin Technologies, an innovative agricultural technology company based in the Midlothian Scientific Area, is supplying companies on three continents with all the components and instructions to grow animal protein in a tank.
The company is a spin-off from the University of Edinburgh with links to the Roslin Institute, which bred Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal.
It supplies stem cells, harvested from live animals, and instructions for growing them inside a bioreactor to cultured meat startups around the world, who can grow them in Olympic swimming pools within 63 days of receiving the package.
The world’s first lab-grown beef burger was served in 2013, and a team of 24 experts from eight countries now hopes to expand to a lab-grown Burns Night dinner, as well as sushi and more conventional meat products like sausage using a 3D. printer.
Ernst Van Orsouw, who took over as CEO last summer, believes artificially created meat offers a more sustainable alternative to traditionally raised equivalents, but will never completely replace farming.
The first lab-grown beef burger took scientists in the Netherlands two years to create and was priced at $300,000.
The industrial production of meat is the main cause of deforestation worldwide, with the felling of large areas of forests to make way for pasture or crops used for food and causes an excess of methane gas in the ozone layer, which contributes to global warming.
Cultured meat scores much higher, without the need for large tracts of land or drugs: it can be grown in urban centers, close to consumers, and is produced in a sterile environment, inside a bioreactor.
Deals have already been signed with companies in the US and Europe and talks are underway to expand into Asia and Latin America, with the hope of achieving mass consumption in five years with £11m funding.
Van Orsouw said: “I don’t see a world where animal agriculture doesn’t exist.
“There will always be a large proportion of meat on the market.
“But I think there’s likely to be a variety of many proteins in the mix, including animal, plant, and lab-based.”
Products will need to be thoroughly scrutinized and approved by food standards authorities before they can be widely sold; this has only happened in Singapore.
Van Orsouw said: “The prospect is really exciting.
“The industry may be decades away from reaching its full potential, but the foundations are already being built here in Scotland today.
“Roslin Technologies manufactures pluripotent stem cells that can differentiate into any tissue.
“We ship them in vials to places all over the world.
“We provide starter cells, a recipe for the culture medium and cooking instructions, then companies can make their own protein.
“We also provide an ongoing agreement that we will continue to supply new cells to reflect any improvements or innovations.
“My personal opinion is that we will see a whole new look for these products.
“It would be great if a Scottish company made the first lab-grown haggis.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.