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Slaughter-Free Lab Grown Steak Cast As Ethically Friendly Alternative

Food
Slaughter-Free Lab Grown Steak Cast As Ethically Friendly Alternative

Lab-grown meat—also known as cultured meat or in vitro meat—is often cast as an environmentally and ethically friendly alternative to raising traditional livestock.

These slaughter-free products aren't available on the market yet, but the dream is so enticing that Bill Gates, Richard Branson and even Tyson Foods—one of the country's largest meat companies—have made big bets on it.


Now, Israeli food tech startup Aleph Farms said Wednesday it has created the world's first lab-grown steak that has "the full experience of meat with the appearance, shape and texture of beef cuts."

Aleph Farms www.youtube.com

Aleph Farms said the problem with grown meat production is getting the various cell types to interact with each other to build a complete tissue structure as they would inside the animal. But the company was able to overcome this barrier through a bio-engineering platform developed in collaboration with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

"Making a patty or a sausage from cells cultured outside the animal is challenging enough, imagine how difficult it is to create a whole-muscle steak," Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms, in a press release. "We've transformed the vision into reality by growing a steak under controlled conditions. The initial products are still relatively thin, but the technology we developed marks a true breakthrough and a great leap forward in producing a cell-grown steak."

Although some food tech companies have made prototypes of lab-grown sausages, chicken nuggets and chicken strips, Aleph headed straight for the "holy grail" of cell-grown foods: steak, as Business Insider noted. It's much harder to replicate the texture and flavor of a steak compared to, say, burgers or meatballs.

Aleph was able to grow their steaks using four types of animal cells in three dimensions instead of growing only one or two types of animal cells on a flat surface, according to Business Insider. The company also claims that its steaks were grown without using fetal bovine serum.

The prototype steaks took 2-3 weeks to produce and cost $50, Toubia said.

Aleph Farms' product is called a "minute steak" because it only takes a minute to cook.

"For me, it is a great experience to eat meat that has the look and feel of beef but has been grown without antibiotics and causes no harm to animals or the environment," Amir Ilan, chef of the Israeli restaurant Paris Texas and the chef in the video, said in the press release. "Aleph Farms meat has high culinary potential—it can be readily incorporated into top-shelf preparations or served in premium-casual restaurants, trendy cafes, bistros, or other eateries."

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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