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Aston University predicted as one of the UK’s leading centres for lab-made meat

May 9, 2023

Aston University has been named as one of the UK’s leading lights in what is predicted to be the future of food – lab-made meat.

The University is one of 17 higher education institutions that are expected to play a major role in the development of cultivated meat.

Cultivated or lab-grown meat is made from cells taken from animals via biopsy. The cells are used to create meat which doesn’t involve the slaughter of animals. The process promises fewer greenhouse gases and a decrease in land required for its production compared to traditional livestock.

The list of universities has been compiled by Cellular Agriculture UK, a non-profit organization which promotes the UK’s so-called ‘cell-ag’ sector. Aston University is one of five institutions they chose to highlight in their report Mapping the potential for UK universities to become research and teaching hubs for cellular agriculture.

Aston University is described in the report as having potential to be an anchor institution for cellular agriculture, and was highlighted for its research and teaching, public outreach work, links with emerging industry and its central location.

Dr Eirini Theodosiou, senior lecturer in the School of lnfrastructure and Sustainable Engineering, focuses on ways to produce enough cell mass to create the meat. “This is still a relatively new food technology," she said. "Unlike many others we work on biomaterials for microcarriers/scaffolds for cultivated meat, which puts us in a very strong position, in the UK at least.”

Meanwhile Dr Jason Thomas’ work explores the psychology behind supporting people to accept lab-made food. Although many people are willing to try it, there are still many who are reluctant to do so. A recent study of the USA and UK found that 35% of meat eaters and 55% of vegetarians claimed they were too disgusted by the idea of cultured meat to even try it. A key goal of his research is how to support people to not just try it but to integrate it into their diet.

“We are interested in finding out what factors can influence consumer purchase of and consumption of lab-made meat,” Thomas said.

“The engineering/psychology link is one of our USPs and is something Aston University can capitalise on; learning what the consumer wants from cultivated meat, and what would encourage them to consume it, using psychological science, and then incorporating this directly into the production process via engineering.

“It is a relatively new food technology, and much work still needs to be done to make it affordable, acceptable and on a massive scale, but it could easily end up being one of the most transformative new foods of the 21st century.”

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