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For cells to mature, they must soak in a nutrient-rich soup. The current soup—costly “fetal bovine serum,” or calf’s blood—may soon be replaced by an inexpensive, plant-based substitute that offers a major advantage: It avoids using any animal-based products, satisfying the ethical concerns of some vegetarians. As the cells mature, they must also be stimulated to move as they would be by bone growth and body movement in a living animal. This is done by giving electric jolts or by manually stretching the polymer scaffolding that anchors the cells. In the course of stimulation, the cells convert from what scientists describe as “meat-flavored Jell-O” to the striated, textured fibers we associate with steak.