Shoji Takeuchi carefully touches a thin, reddish-brown piece of beef on a round black plate. The chunk of meat, measuring about 1 cubic centimeter, stretches as he moves it around the plate with chopsticks.

“It didn’t taste like beef, though it had umami and was chewy,” Takeuchi, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s graduate school of information science and technology, said of the impression he got when he tasted the meat last March for the first time. The piece in question, however, is not just any bit of beef. It’s lab-grown meat that Takeuchi and his team of researchers put years of effort into making.

The team's work could be the future of our diet.