Rustic InVitro | Exploring potential of lab-grown meat.

2014 — The Next Nature Network — Product Design, Food Design

Rustic In-Vitro presents a future vision on in-vitro meat, aka 'lab-grown meat', and a possible food culture that it might create. It is the result of an exploration alongside the Next Nature Network on the potential of lab-grown meat.​​​​​​​

A development process that reminds us of fruit, hanging from a branch slowly growing and changing in shape, color and taste until it is ‘ripe’ to be harvested. And a look and handling that reminds us of the traditional dry-cured Spanish sausages. With meat that, as it grows over time, develops deep, complex delicious flavors that range from black truffle to oak. The longer Rustic In-Vitro is left to ripen, the more character the replicating cells acquire.

As the planet’s population speeds towards 9 billion, it becomes impossible to continue consuming meat like we do today. Will we all be eating rice and beans? Grasshoppers perhaps? Some scientists hope to keep us eating vertebrate protein with in vitro meat. Grown in bioreactors from animal cells, in vitro meat could be a sustainable and humane alternative to raising a whole animal from birth to slaughter. The first lab-grown hamburger is already here, but the in vitro meat technology could also bring us entirely new culinary experiences.

In exploration of this the Next Nature Network asked a select group of TU/e students to designed their vision on in-vitro meat and the “food culture” lab-grown meat might initiate. The Rustic In-Vitro product was my contribution.
Design Challenges
Getting people actually want to try In-Vitro meat was the biggest challenge in this project. Media has portrait In-Vitro meat as a genetically modified artificial and direct replacement for meat that is filled with hormones (which are actually not needed at all) and unknown ingredients made by scientists in a lab (lab-grown meat). Doesn’t sound so tasty, right? So, the challenge was to reverse this image and trigger some kind of curiosity and open-minded towards this new unfamiliar kind of food.

Rustic In-Vitro incubators hanging to cure at the Design House exhibition De Etende Mens. 

Design Solution
To reverse this negative image, I started with that what people experience as positive and negative in regard to food. Exploring what makes food appealing or repulsive, which associations we make on a subconscious level and how we could use these associations to alter our perception and behaviour towards In-Vitro meat. ​​​​​​​
In the design, I combined positive food association (such as craftsmanship, natural growing, freshness, clean and rich flavour) with a convenience of use (no need of cooling, efficient size, long shelf life, flexible harvest time, customisable meat composition and size and pre-portioned units). Being able to experience the growth and development yourself provides a sense of control. Which in itself contributed to the trust towards the product.
Rustic In-Vitro is features in ‘The In Vitro Meat Cookbook’ as one of the 45 speculative recipes with lab-grown meat and has been exhibited nationally and internationally as part of the ‘Meet the future’ exhibition organised by the Next Nature Network.
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