Meanwhile, at Next Nature

Monday 4th March, 2024 - Bruce Sterling

Cultivating the future: the evolution and promise of lab-grown food.

Remember our 2018 petition rallying for public tastings of in vitro meat? It stirred up quite the storm, even sparking a lively parliamentary debate in the Netherlands. A lot has happened since then. Meat from the lab is already approved to be on the market in Singapore, Israel and the US, and we can only guess that this is just the beginning. The Netherlands became the first European country to allow lab-grown meat tastings. Dutch companies Mosa Meat and Meatable have been given the green light to host tastings, set to kick off in the near future. So what does this mean for us? When can we finally taste a cultured steak?

Next Nature has been diving into the concept of lab-grown meat for a while now. From our pioneering In Vitro Meat Cookbook to the imaginative Bistro In Vitro with its speculative menu; we’ve been waist-deep in the future of cultured meat since the get-go. This edition of our newsletter is about to serve up the in vitro update you’ve been itching for.

In vitro what now?

In vitro meat, also called lab-grown or cultured meat, is produced from animal cells cultivated in a nutrient solution. With the help of proteins and growth hormones, these cells grow into muscle tissue, resembling traditional meat. Once ready, it can be cooked and eaten like farm-raised meat.

Since animals need not be slaughtered in the production of in vitro meat, the technology may give rise to new human-animal relations. Pigs in urban backyards could serve as the living donors for muscle stem cells through biopsies every now and then. While the pigs live happy lives as companion animals, feeding on our waste food, their cells are cultured in local meat factories.

Want to experience the future of lab-grown meat (and even vegetables) yourself? Try food futurist Chloe Rutzerveld’s newest installation Culinair Cellular, featured in our Spacefarming exhibition at the Next Nature Evoluon in Eindhoven!

Plan your visit here!

Lab-grown dreams

At Next Nature, our fascination with lab-grown meat has been a long standing dream. While our concepts may occasionally seem a bit weird and uncanny, we’ve always been exploring every angle of technology to imagine the diverse range of future scenarios together with you—both dream and nightmare. This way, we hope to inspire humans to think about in what future they would like to live. After all, it’s up to us to shape the world we want to live in.

In 2014 we released the world’s first in vitro meat cookbook, a cookbook that presents 45 speculative recipes with lab-grown meat that you cannot cook (yet). Since then, some of the recipes have been realised. For instance, the victimless foie grass that is grown from goose cells without the tortured goose.
Next to that, our virtual eatery Bistro In Vitro, allows you to craft your own three-course in vitro dining experience and reserve a table for the year 2031. Additionally, it generates a personalized In Vitro-Meat profile, showing you what type of in vitro meat-eater you are.

A short timeline of meat from the lab
While the concept of lab-grown meat may seem new, its roots actually trace back to the early 20th century. In 1931, Winston Churchill famously predicted the advent of “synthetic” meats grown in laboratories. Fast forward to the 21st century, and scientists are now already making a mean steak, turning this vision into reality. Behold, a compact timeline outlining the significant events from dream to steak.

🍖 1931: Winston Churchill predicts the advent of “synthetic” meats grown in laboratories.

🍖 1999: Dutch researcher Willem van Eelen received the first patent for in-vitro meat.

🍖2008: The world’s first International In Vitro Meat Symposium is held at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

This year, the tenth edition will be held from 17-19 november at MECC in Maastricht!

🍖 2013: The Cultured Beef Initiative marks a pivotal moment in the pursuit of in vitro meat. Dr. Mark Post and his team at Maastricht University successfully produce the world’s first lab-grown burger.

🍖2014: Next Nature releases their in vitro meat cookbook: the cookbook that features 45 speculative recipes you cannot cook (yet).

Order the book here (you even get a discount as a Next Nature member!)

🍖 2015: Restaurant Bistro In Vitro opens and takes reservations from 2028.

🍖 2016: Memphis Meats unveils the world’s first lab-grown meatball.

🍖 2017: The first cultured chicken nugget is unveiled by Just, formerly known as Hampton Creek.

🍖2018: Next Nature launches the petition ‘In vitro meat is here, let us taste it’ which led to parliamentary questions followed by a roundtable discussion with members of the Dutch parliament.

🍖2020: Singapore becomes the first country to approve the sale of lab-grown meat for human consumption.

🍖 2023: US approves chicken made from cultivated cells, the nation’s first ‘lab-grown’ meat.

🍖 2023: The Netherlands is making history and headlines as the first European country to allow lab-grown meat tastings.

Visit Friday Next on March 8!

Experience the Evoluon in the evening during Friday Next! On Friday, March 8th, where we make our evening opening extra festive with a jam-packed futuristic program. Experience the theatrical experience MIND MOUTH, created by food designer Marije Vogelzang in celebration of her 25th anniversary as a pioneer in the world of food design.

Mind Mouth is a theatrical experience that unfolds not on stage – but in your mouth and body. Through audio and edible samples, your senses will be stimulated. All your senses except your eyes. It’s not as if you won’t see anything. Your imagination will take over, making you the protagonist in the story, and food becomes various characters.
Join one of the guided tours of the exhibitions, watch the documentary ‘Food & Design,’ and indulge in futuristic finger food snacks and festive drinks in Brasserie Next!

Full program & tickets here

Does the thought of a lab-grown steak makes your mouth water or does it send shivers down your spine? Whether you’re eager to sink your teeth into a cultivated meat or prefer to keep your distance, the swift evolution of in vitro meat is undeniably captivating. Nonetheless, the arrival date of lab-grown chicken breast in our supermarkets still remains a mystery, for now.

Bon appétit!

The Next Nature Team