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New Steak Grown From Human Cells 'Technically Not' Cannibalism

New Steak Grown From Human Cells 'Technically Not' Cannibalism

The Ouroboros Steak can be grown from cells scraped from the inside of your cheek, which are fed serum from old donated blood

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman

A team of scientists and designers from the US have come up with a new type of steak grown from human cells - promising us that eating the product is 'technically not' cannibalism.

The Ouroboros Steak (which, in a dark twist, is named after the ancient Egyptian snake that eats itself) is a DIY meal kit designed by Andrew Pelling, Orkan Telhan and Grace Knight.

It can be grown from cells scraped from the inside of your cheek, which are fed serum from old donated blood.

The result is meat in the form of 'mini steaks', which involve no harm to animals.

Each starter kit comes with tools, ingredients and instructions that allow you to create and culture your own cells into real meat, with the 'mini steaks' made 'without causing harm to animals'.

Design Museum/Ouroboros Steak

The unusual product is only a prototype at this stage, and is currently on display at London's Design Museum as part of the Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition. Well, it will be whenever museums can reopen.

By using human cells and blood, the project is a critical commentary on the lab-grown meat industry, with the Design Museum explaining on its website that it 'critiques the industry's claims to sustainability'.

While the industry is said to offer a cruelty-free alternative to factory farming, the process still relies on fetal bovine serum (FBS), which is derived from the blood of calf fetuses after their mothers are slaughtered for the meat or dairy industry - in turn making such meat a byproduct of polluting agricultural practices.

Scientist Andrew Pelling, who co-developed the Ouroboros Steak, told Dezeen: "Fetal bovine serum costs significant amounts of money and the lives of animals.

"Although some lab-grown meat companies are claiming to have solved this problem, to our knowledge no independent, peer-reviewed, scientific studies have validated these claims.

"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."

The steak claims to reduce the need for other animal products by drawing exclusively on human blood and cells.

The DIY kit involves users collecting cells from the inside of their cheek by using a cotton swab, depositing them onto scaffolds made from mushroom mycelium.

These are then stored in a warm environment for around three months, while being fed with human serum until fully grown.


Industrial designer Grace Knight, who also helped design the steak, said: "Expired human blood is a waste material in the medical system and is cheaper and more sustainable than FBS, but culturally less-accepted.

"People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not."

Orkan Telhan added: "Our design is scientifically and economically feasible but also ironic in many ways.

"We are not promoting 'eating ourselves' as a realistic solution that will fix humans' protein needs.

"We rather ask a question: what would be the sacrifices we need to make to be able to keep consuming meat at the pace that we are? In the future, who will be able to afford animal meat and who may have no other option than culturing meat from themselves?"

Featured Image Credit: Design Museum/Ouroboros Steak

Topics: Food, News, Art, Steak