Far Out!

An Israeli Steak-Out In Space

By David E. Kaplan

You can actually say, “This steak is out of this world” and it would be true; both literally and figuratively.

How so?

Earlier in the year, Lay Of The Land published an article titled ‘Israel Leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World’ revealing on how the world’s first laboratory-grown steak was served up in Israel by Aleph Farms (Aleph being the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet) by isolating cells from a cow and cultivating them into a 3-D structure.

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Animals Survive; Planet Thrives. Slaughter-free meat involves taking a sample of animal cells from a real cow and replicating them outside of the animal: without the antibiotics, environmental footprint, contamination and animal slaughter which comes with conventional meat production.

Founded   in 2017 by Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen – part of Israel’s food processing company Strauss Group Ltd., in collaboration with the Technion, Alpha Farms is set to impact the nature and scope of the future of food by producing cell-grown meat that resembles a free range version.

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Alpha Steak. Healthier for all – animals, humans and the planet.

For meat lovers, that all too familiar alluring sizzling aroma that is  like a culinary aphrodisiac,  will still be there.

The only difference  is  that the genesis of your T-bone, fillet, rump, sirloin or entrecote hails from a laboratory rather than a field. Having unveiled in December 2018 to much fanfare, the first prototype of lab-grown steak in the world, the Israeli enterprising entrepreneurs decided to take its curiosity to another scientific level!

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A lab-grown steak in a laboratory at Aleph Farms in Rehovot, Israel. (courtesy: Jpost.com – photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

The Next Frontier

In typical Israeli out-of-the-box fashion,  Alpha Farms launched its idea into the stratosphere by conducting an experiment to manufacture its meat product on the International Space Station (ISS) some 248 miles (339 km) from earth.

The ISS is a low-orbit space station that serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory between five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).

Aleph Farms explained that the project aims to demonstrate its mission of being able “to provide sustainable food security on earth and beyond by producing meat regardless of  the availability of land and local water resources.”

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Didier Toubia, CEO and co-founfer of Aleph Farms.

Says CEO Didier Toubia who co-founded Aleph Farms together with Prof. Shulamit Levenberg:

 “In space, we don’t have 10,000 or 15,000 liters (3962.58 gallons) of water available to produce one kilogram (2.205 pounds) of beef.”

The experiment, he said, “marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources.”

To conduct the experiment in space, Aleph Farms teamed up with Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions, which develops implementations of 3D bioprinting technologies, and two American companies, Meal Source Technologies and Finless Foods, to carry out the process on September 26. As reported by Israel’s innovation news platform, No Camels cosponsored by the IDC Herzliya, “Aboard the Russian segment of the ISS, they used a unique technology of magnetic bio-fabrication, developed by 3D Bioprinting Solutions, to produce bovine, mummichog and rabbit myoblast/fibroblast constructs provided by Aleph Farms, Finless Foods, and Meal Source Technologies, respectively. All under microgravity conditions.”

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New Horizons. The RSC Energia spacecraft. (Photo via Rocosmos)

In a statement released on October 7, 3D Bioprinting Solutions said that the joint project “lays the groundwork for renewable protein sources for long term manned missions.”

3D Bioprinting Solutions and Meal Source Technologies’ co-founder Aleksandr Ostrovsky said, “We believe that bio-fabrication of cultured meat in space has several unique advantages such as sustainability, personalization, and biosafety. What is more, creating cultured meat products in space may grant invaluable scientific insights for implementation of this technology on Earth.”

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What’s Cooking? Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko on board of the International Space Station during the first experiment with 3D bioprinter in December 2018. (Photo 3D Bioprinting Solutions)

Aiming High

Hailing the experiment in space as a “successful proof of concept,” Aleph Farms said the cutting-edge research “in some of the most extreme environments imaginable serves as an essential growth indicator of sustainable food production methods that don’t exacerbate land waste, water waste, and pollution.”

These new innovative culinary methodologies aim to feed a rapidly growing world population predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050.

Assured of it venturing in the right direction, Aleph Farms cited a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report  – published in September – that argued that conventional animal farming methods contributed greatly to climate change, creating “a challenging situation worse and undermining food security.”

Said  The Kitchen’s CEO, Jonathan Berger:

“The mission of providing access to high-quality nutrition anytime, anywhere in a sustainable way is an increasing challenge for all humans.” Whether “On earth or up above,” he continued,  “we count on innovators like Aleph Farms to take the initiative to  provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as the climate crisis.”

This achievement, said Toubia, “follows Yuri Gagarin’s success of becoming the first man to journey into outer space, and Neil Armstrong’s 50th anniversary this year, celebrating the moment when the first man walked in space.”

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Mindful Menu. “Coming Up, one alpha steak with fresh vegetables and salad.”

While lab-grown steaks will likely not become commercially available for at least three to four years and the world waits, a video shows a group of people – among them Aleph Farm‘s vice president of research and development Neta Lavon – enjoying the steak-of-tomorrow alongside a tomato and zucchini pasta.

All these revelations have tongues not only wagging – but wanting to taste!

 

Easy To Digest

Israel went to the polls on Tuesday the 17th September.  It was the second election in 2019 and when Israelis woke the next morning, they were uncertain what they woke up to and if they were sure, it was distasteful.

Far more palatable than the news was the breakfast, frequently voted one of the healthiest in the world.

By David E. Kaplan

“Oh, your Israeli breakfasts are the best!”

How often do we hear this praise from visitors abroad? It’s often the first notion that comes to mind when they think of Israeli cuisine. In a world today conscious of “what we eat”, the Israeli breakfast has earned the reputation of meeting the concerns of health and diet far more than its counterparts abroad, with its emphasis on seasonal fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and dairy products renowned for its tasty variety as well as low fat content.

Most top hotel chefs in Israel will tell you: “A traditional Israeli breakfast is fresh, healthy and wholesome; this is why it’s so popular with our overseas visitors who are not only looking for a substantial meal to begin the day but a healthy one.”

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“Good Morning, Israel”. Best wat to greet the day – an Israeli breakfast.

So before feasting your eyes on the sights, set your sights on a wholesome Israeli breakfast

Fresh from the Fields

The origin of the traditional Israeli breakfast is imbedded in this young nation’s recent past and tied to its rural landscape. To avoid much of the hot day’s sun, Israel’s pioneer farmers on the kibbutzim (collective agricultural settlements) would go out into the fields way before the crack of dawn, and then after a good few hours of toiling, return to the chadar ochel (communal dining hall) for a hearty breakfast. What awaited these hard-working laborers with raving appetites were usually fluffy omelets or boiled eggs, fresh salads made with cucumbers and sweet tomatoes, hummus, eggplant, salad, pita and other breads and homemade jams. Little did they realise at the time that with each mouthful, they were forging a nation’s cuisine!

A recent publication went so far as to refer “the Jewish state’s contribution to world cuisine” was none other than the “Israeli breakfast”.

Genesis

Rich in history, the Israeli breakfast was born in poorer times. In the pre-and early days of the State, the kibbutz breakfast meant a hard roll and a scoop of leben — a liquidy and sour Mideast yogurt. But kibbutz agricultural laborers needed a heartier start to their day, so the communal village’s kitchens began putting out a spread with whatever they had on hand, such as fresh vegetables, fresh juice, eggs, bread, milk and other dairy products.

It was a simple meal but compared to what most folks living in the cities and towns ate at that time, it was a meal ‘fit for a king’.

Feeding a young nation was an arduous task.

The years between 1948 – the year of independence – and 1951, witnessed the largest immigration ever to reach the shores of modern Israel. Some 688,000 immigrants came to Israel during the country’s first three and a half years at an average of close to 200,000 a year. As approximately 650,000 Jews lived in Israel at the time of the establishment of the state, this meant in effect a doubling of the Jewish population. It also meant a lot of mouths to feed in a state saddled with security concerns and a struggling economy. The availability of produce was limited, and food was rationed. These were the days of the Tzena (Hebrew for “austerity”) and citizens received coupons for food.

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State In Distress. Soon after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the country found itself lacking in both food and foreign currency and the government introduced measures to control and oversee distribution of necessary resources to ensure equal and ample rations for all Israeli citizens. Tel Aviv residents standing in line to buy food rations in 1954.

Life under austerity was not easy. The Ministry of Rationing and Supply created a “basket” of basic products, such as sugar, oil, bread and margarine, which could be purchased only in authorized stores.

Coupon books allocated the type and amount of food to be consumed and people stood in line for hours to obtain with no guarantee that the produce was available.

A child of an immigrant recalls that when his parents immigrated to Israel from Poland after World War II, the family was allotted one egg a week. Half-jokingly he records that “I was a little upset when my baby brother was born, because I was no longer given that precious egg!” There was literally, a ‘new kid on the block’ and “my brother needed the egg more than me.”

And he was not egg’aggerating!

The situation was so dire that when someone from the city was invited to the kibbutz for a visit, it was considered a vacation – not only because it was a chance to escape ‘the madding crowd’ of the city, but because the offering was better and bountiful.

From ‘King’ to Kibbutznik

However, by the mid-1950s, “what was once a typical kibbutz breakfast had emerged into a traditional Israel breakfast served in hotels the length and breadth of the country,” explained former South African Arnie Freedman, a veteran member of Kibbutz Yizreel in central Israel near Afula. As Israel’s hotel industry developed, it turned to the kibbutz for inspiration for breakfast. There was good reason – If the reference to kibbutz food had once been “fit for a king”, the phrase had morphed into “fit for a kibbutznik” and the image of the kibbutz had impacted upon Israeli culture beyond its socialist ideology into the realm of cuisine.

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Body And Soul. Kibbutz pioneers would go off the work early and then return to the communal dining room for a hearty, wholesome breakfast.

While many kibbutzim today no longer have a communal dining room, this is not the case with Kibbutz Yizreel which remains traditional in every respect, “including our sumptuous daily breakfast,” says Arnie.

Before returning to work, the members were streaming in, taking trays and helping themselves from the buffet. There was a variety of cereals, yogurts, scrambled and boiled eggs, breads rolls, fish, a variety of cheeses, hummus, tehina and all different kinds of salads and fresh fruit, all picked from the kibbutz.  An hour later, well satiated, they were well ready to return to getting back on their tractor, climbing a ladder to pick oranges or sitting at their computers at Maytronics, the kibbutz’s highly-successful manufacturer of robotic swimming-pool cleaning equipment.

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The Young And The Hungry. Youngers tucking in to a typical Israeli breakfast in the communal dining room at Kibbutz Sde Nehemia in the Upper Galilee.

Where’s the beef?

Any seasoned traveler to Israel is familiar with the major difference between an Israeli breakfast and those elsewhere in the world – No meat.

In accordance with the Jewish laws of Kashrut (keeping kosher), meat and dairy ingredients are never served together in a meal. The Israeli breakfast is thus a dairy meal, and a variety of cheeses are offered. Fish is considered pareve and so is permitted, and herring is frequently served.

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Healthy And Wholesome. Breakfast at Yotvata Kosher (Dairy) Restaurant in Tel Aviv

Other smoked or pickled fish dishes are also common, including tuna and salmon.

Egg dishes are almost universal, which may be pre-cooked or cooked to order. The Middle Eastern egg dish shakshouka, a spicy North African concoction of eggs poached in a tomato-pepper-onion sauce is a common choice. However, Jewish food writer and historian Gil Marks told ISRAEL21c that this iconic dish “is actually a latecomer to the already laden Israeli breakfast table.” The classic must-haves, he says, “are scrambled or hardboiled eggs, a variety of chopped vegetable salads, porridge, cheeses, fresh breads, plain and flavored yogurts, fruit and granola, washed down with fresh juice and/or coffee or tea.”

Shakshuka fried eggs macro in frying pan. horizontal top view
Top Ten. The bountiful buffets that have made the “Israeli breakfast” famous among tourists usually include shakshouka, a spicy North African concoction of eggs poached in a tomato-pepper-onion sauce. So it was no surprise that Lonely Planet included the shakshouka at Jerusalem’s Tmol Shilshom café on its recent Top 10 list of the world’s best breakfasts.

Other Middle Eastern dishes may include Israeli salad, hummus, tehina, baba ghanoush and the strained yogurt called labaneh.

While Hummus – the much loved, humble chickpea dip – is a vital part of the cuisine throughout the Middle East, in Israel, it may be served at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack times – it’s iconic.

No less iconic are the fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, radishes, onions, shredded carrots and a variety of olives – both black and green.

Enjoying an Israeli breakfast is one of the pleasures of a visit to Israel. Apart from the hotels, restaurants and small cafés will all offer one version or another of this famous feast.

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Table For Two. Enjoy an Israeli breakfast overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Some places serve it throughout the day, so you can even have one for lunch or even diner.

Like Israeli salad, this breakfast is not locally called an “Israeli breakfast”. In restaurants and cafés it’s sometimes named after the establishment, or it is just called “breakfast”. But if you see a breakfast on the menu offering eggs, coffee/tea, salad, cheeses and juice – rest assured, it’s an Israeli breakfast!

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Irresistible! Israeli breakfast is a rite of passage for those visiting Israel.

Mouthful of Myths

The most popular day to eat an Israeli breakfast at a restaurant is on a Friday morning but as one American tourist once quipped: “Finding a table is like trying to catch the last flight out of Saigon!”

It is common counsel that if you eat an “Israeli breakfast” you might not need to eat lunch. However, this is one bit of counsel this writer is unlikely to chew on! Breakfast is breakfast and lunch is lunch and too many active hours separate the two.

If it is one o’clock then it is time for an Israeli lunch – it is different to an Israeli breakfast but that is another story!

Bon Appétit! or as we say in Hebrew:

Betayavon.

 

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Pleasure On The Patio. Begin the day with a nutritious Israeli breakfast.

Israel Leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World

The world’s first lab-grown steak is served up in Israel

By David E. Kaplan

For lovers of meat, the alluring sizzling aroma is all too familiar. It peaks as you enter a steakhouse; frequently even before entry -like a culinary aphrodisiac titillating the taste buds as you decide – T-bone, fillet, rump or sirloin.

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Steak Out. World’s first lab-grown steak is made from beef but slaughter-free

What a salivating choice!

What if that choice included a steak that hailed from a laboratory rather than a field?

Believing that meat is one of life’s pleasures to be celebrated and enjoyed without the downsides to health and the environment, Aleph Farms in Israel, aims to offer “superior, healthier, slaughter-free meat,” providing a new customer experience.

Aleph Farms was founded in 2017 by Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen, part of Israel’s food processing company Strauss Group Ltd., in collaboration with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

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LEADING THE SLAUGHTER-FREE MEAT REVOLUTION FOR A HEALTHIER WORLD

Made from cells that were isolated from a cow and grown into a 3-D structure, the first lab-grown steak was served up in Israel. The steak’s “chef” – Aleph Farms – says “it represents a benchmark in cellular meat production,” that could quite literally shape the future of food by producing cell-grown meat that resembles free range meat.

However, will it “meat” the expectations of steak lovers?

The image of a waiter walking towards your table about to serve a ‘laboratory concoction’ rather than a ‘kitchen creation’, might not titillate the taste buds at first, but then that can change.

It may well be that the ‘lab’ steak is no less “sumptuous”!

The proof will be in the proverbial ‘pudding’ – or steak!

In a world where meat production is increasingly under scrutiny from consumers and citizens who feel that certain practices are unethical and insensitive to farm-animal welfare, the announcement of slaughter-free meat has been welcomed. While there are other companies in the race to produce lab-grown meat, they are mostly burger patties, sausages and nuggets. Aleph Farms, on the other hand are going for a carnivore’s ‘gold’ –   STEAK.

This revelation has tongues not only wagging, but wanting to taste.

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Can You Spot The Difference? Aleph Farms’ Technology Will Change Cultured Meat.

Not Yet On The Menu

The steak will likely not become commercially available for at least three to four years, and while this writer has not tucked into one of Aleph’s steaks, a video shows a group of people – among them Aleph’s vice president of research and development, Neta Lavon, enjoying the steak alongside a tomato and zucchini pasta.

And to the obvious question of price – as volume increases, it should be on par with traditional meat within a few short years.

Most of the companies working to produce lab-cultured meat have focused on ground meat and nuggets. “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,” said Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms.

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Appetite For Creating A Better World. Didier Toubia, founder of the start-up Aleph Farms in Ashdod, Israel, aims to have its first products on the market in three years.

Toubia conceded that Aleph’s steaks are still “relatively thin” – only 5 mm thick.

However, the steak is said to have the same texture as conventional meat, and it gives off that familiar beef smell when cooking.

Easy Eater

It will ease many a consumer knowing their favourite food on their plate did not come from an abattoir.

Toubia believes that products like Aleph Meats’ steak can help bridge the divide between people who are unwilling to give up meat entirely and the need to reduce global meat consumption in the fight against climate change. “Today, over 90 percent of consumers do eat meat,” says Toubia, “and we think the percentage of vegetarians will not grow significantly despite many launches of plant-based products.”

Lab-grown meats are a welcome alternative to animal-sourced meats.

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Bon Appétit. The steak was made using a variety of cells extracted from a cow

While this development is unlikely to convert die-hard vegans as these products include starter cells derived from animals, they may recognise the positive benefits. Even Louise Davies of the UK’s Vegan Society noted “the potential that lab-grown meat can have in reducing animal suffering and the environmental impact of animal agriculture.”

So, even if it still “isn’t vegan”, Lab-grown meat may prove a sustainable alternative requiring significantly less land, water, and feed than traditional beef farming.

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Worth Waiting. This thinly-sliced steak prototype took between two and three weeks to produce.

It remains to be seen what impact lab-grown steaks can have on the world. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping an eye on what’s ‘sizzling’ over at Israel’s Aleph Farms.

 

 

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