Alternatives to traditional meat are extremely popular right now. It turns out, demand for them doesn’t end on Earth. A startup called Aleph Farms is working to make alternative meat products in space.
This new goal comes after the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) used its technology to grow a tiny piece of steak aboard the orbiting lab. It’s a big step forward for the future of food production and could become a major source of nutrition for future astronauts.
The crew of the ISS has gotten good at growing vegetables in orbit. Things like salad greens and even hot peppers have been successfully cultivated aboard the space station. Those are a great way to spruce up a diet that otherwise consists of freeze-dried foods and microwaved meals.
However, the prospect of growing meat in space is even more interesting.
Sending fresh meat to space from Earth simply isn’t feasible. It wouldn’t be preserved long enough for astronauts to consume it and frozen meat isn’t much better than their existing options.
If the “meat” could be grown on the space station, then it becomes a potentially nutritious option. Aleph Farms specializes in creating what it calls “slaughter free” steaks that are grown from animal cells. Although this isn’t a plant-based approach like that of Impossible Foods or Beyond, it is still better for the environment.
As NASA continues to set its sights on long-term space stays—both on the moon and on Mars—astronauts will need reliable ways to grow their own food. Sending supplies to a permanent moon base would get costly. Sending them to Mars would take far too long.
Recently, Aleph Farms co-founder Didier Toubia said, “We are currently building our work plan with selected partners for developing our BioFarm for extraterrestrial human colonies, and our activities will certainly involve more experiments on Earth under microgravity and in space, including with the ISS.”
With that in mind, it seems that the future of space meat doesn’t just lie with explorers. The astronauts currently aboard the ISS may benefit from continued trials that see more lab-grown meat being produced in orbit.
Of course, there are implications on Earth as well. Aleph Farms’ main mission is one of “providing access to healthy nutrition to anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
That includes places like remote deserts, dense rainforests, and everywhere else in-between. With the technology being pursued by Aleph Farms, humans wouldn’t have to rely on herds of livestock.
Current methods of food production simply won’t be adequate as the world’s population continues to expand. Moreover, the environmental impact of the agriculture sector can’t be understated. With that in mind, lab-grown beef could become a viable choice in the coming years. Of course, getting consumers to buy-in could be tricky. There is something a bit off putting about eating a steak that was grown compared to eating “meat” made of plants.
Nonetheless, it may become a part of normal life in a few decades. When humans finally touch down on Mars, it most certainly will be.