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Space burgers could soon be on the menu for astronauts

Harry Pettit, October 9, 2019 6:45PM The Sun

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French Austronaut Thomas Pesquet eating macarons in 2017 on the International Space Station, a treat sent from home. If the astronauts can grow meat on the ISS in the future, space burgers will soon be on the menu! Picture: AFP/ESA/NASA media_cameraFrench Austronaut Thomas Pesquet eating macarons in 2017 on the International Space Station, a treat sent from home. If the astronauts can grow meat on the ISS in the future, space burgers will soon be on the menu! Picture: AFP/ESA/NASA

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Meat has grown in a laboratory in space.

Israeli and Russian astronaut scientists grew the tiny piece of beef from cells* while aboard the International Space Station, 400km above the Earth’s surface.

Cells from cattle were harvested back on our planet and blasted to the station where they were grown into meat using a special 3D printer.

The astronauts grew tiny pieces of beef from cells. Picture: media_cameraThe astronauts grew tiny pieces of beef from cells. Picture: 3d Bioprinting Solutions

The experiment was run on September 26 within the Russian part of the space station and organised by Aleph Farms, a food company that grows beef steaks on Earth.

Researchers said the project was to show how lab-grown meat can be cultivated* in tough conditions, with minimal* equipment.

The technique they developed could be used to provide astronauts with space burgers in future.

In 2015, astronauts on the International Space Stationgrew their first crop of lettuce. Picture: NASA media_cameraIn 2015, astronauts on the International Space Station grew and ate their first crop of lettuce. Picture: NASA

“We are proving that cultivated meat can be produced anytime, anywhere, in any condition,” said Aleph Farms boss Didier Toubia.

“We can potentially provide a powerful solution to produce the food closer to the population needing it, at the exact and right time it is needed.”

To grow the meat, scientists copied the natural process of muscle cell regeneration* occurring inside the body of cattle.

Beef cattle media_cameraA herd of beef cattle grazing in NSW, which requires quite a lot of water and land. The muscle cells in the cattle naturally regenerate as they grow and it was this process that the scientists copied with the 3D printer.

It required the use of a 3D bioprinter, which sticks together live cells to create something resembling* real meat.

Wagwu steak in grill pan media_cameraThe printer stuck meat cells together so that the tiny piece of beef resembled regular meat but was much smaller than this Australian ribeye steak.

Lab-grown meat looks and tastes like the real thing, but is produced without the need for lots of water, feed or land for animals and without the need to kill them.

“In space, we don’t have 10,000 or 15,000 litres of water available to produce 1kg of beef,” Mr Toubia said.

“This joint experiment marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security* for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources.”

VIDEO: This is a promotional video or ad from the company that organised the experiment explaining how and why they grew the meat in space

Meat grows in space

Back on Earth, Australia’s government science agency, CSIRO, has teamed up with the company that owns fast-food chain Hungry Jack’s to work on inventing a burger made from legumes* that looks and tastes like meat.

The meat substitute company is called v2food and its products are expected to be available in restaurants and shops in Australia before the end of the year.

This article was first published in The Sun and was reproduced here with permission.

GLOSSARY

  • cells: small unit or building block that makes up living things
  • cultivated: nurture and help grow
  • minimal: the minimum amount
  • regeneration: forming new animal or plant cells
  • resembling: seeming similar to
  • food security: having reliable access to affordable, quality food
  • legumes: group of plants including peas and beans

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What type of meat did they grow?
  2. When and where did the astronauts do the experiment?
  3. What does the 3D bioprinter do to the cells?
  4. How much water does Mr Toubia say it takes to create 1kg of beef from animals?
  5. What are the v2food burgers made from?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Point of view
Write down what you think the following people would say if you asked them: “What do you think about growing meat in space? Why do you think that?”

  • A cattle farmer
  • A scientist
  • A vegetarian astronaut (Vegetarians do not eat meat)
  • A person living in a very poor country

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
You are the chief scientist on the International Space Station, 400km above Earth. Your mission is to grow a second piece of beef in space, to check that the special 3D bioprinter can be used many times. Your experiment starts out okay. But suddenly, things start to go wrong.

Write a story about what happens.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
Let’s print it
3D food printing is not that new a concept. In fact, in 2016 the first pop-up 3D food printing restaurant, Food Ink appeared in London. So I want you to take the concept of lab-created food and 3D printing to create the ultimate wacky Halloween dish that is actually good for you.

Design your spooky plate of food, label it, and then write two descriptions: one aimed at the parents telling them about how good the meal is and the other aimed at the kids telling them about your crazy wacky meal.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you eat meat grown by a 3D printer? Would you eat plant-based burgers that look and taste like meat? Why or why not?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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