The saying “You are what you eat” may soon become a lot more literal.
A “DIY meal kit” for growing steaks made from human cells was recently nominated for “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum.
Named the Ouroboros Steak after the circular symbol of a snake eating itself tail-first, the hypothetical kit would come with everything one needs to use their own cells to grow miniature human meat steaks.
“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” Grace Knight, one of the designers, told Dezeen magazine.
Before you go running for your wallet, know this isn’t a product available to buy. It was created by scientist Andrew Pelling, artist Orkan Telhan and Knight, an industrial designer, on commission by the Philadelphia Museum of Art for an exhibit last year.
“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat”, Guy Fieri#cultivatedmeat #cleanmeat #kitchentissueengineering pic.twitter.com/R0gdC5jkJ5
— ourochef (@ourochef) October 18, 2019
“Growing yourself ensures that you and your loved ones always know the origin of your food, how it has been raised and that its cells were acquired ethically and consensually,” a website for the imagined product states.
The project was made as a critique of the lab-grown meat industry, which the designers told Dezeen magazine is not actually as animal-friendly as one might expect. Lab-grown meat relies on fetal bovine serum for animal cell cultures, though some companies have claimed to have found alternatives. FBS is made from calf fetus blood after pregnant cows are slaughtered.
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin pic.twitter.com/xvcInFamAr
— ourochef (@ourochef) October 17, 2019
Lab-grown meat has not yet been approved for human consumption, though some products could hit store shelves in the next few years.
“As the lab-grown meat industry is developing rapidly, it is important to develop designs that expose some of its underlying constraints in order to see beyond the hype,” Pelling told Dezeen.
Growing an Ouroboros Steak would take about three months using cells taken from inside your cheek, the magazine reported. For the collection of sample steaks on display in the museum, the team used human cell cultures purchased from the American Tissue Culture Collection and grew them with donated blood that expired and would have otherwise been destroyed. They preserved the final products in resin.
“Expired human blood is a waste material in the medical system and is cheaper and more sustainable than FBS, but culturally less accepted,” Knight told Dezeen.