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Can Cultured Meat Disrupt the Food Industry?

As a result of the relentless effort and belief of a scientist named Jon Vein, the first lab-grown meat was born in 1998. Today we are going to discuss the rapid growth of the cultured meat industry. We will only be talking about the cultured meat industry. We will not discuss implications related to the plant-based meat industry i.e. Impossible burger/Beyond meat. So what are the contributing factors to the growth of this industry? Is it just another FAD or is this lab-grown meat the future? Let us take a deeper look behind the rise of the cultured meat industry.

Industry Overview

Who doesn’t cherish burgers? A vegan’s bad dream and a carnivore’s go-to dinner. Tragically, we might be arriving at a point where it is not, at this point reasonable to feed our people with beef. The transport industry has been surpassed by Livestock and agriculture industries in terms of contribution towards air pollution and climate change. With 9%, 35-40%, and 65% of the total worldwide discharges of CO2, CH4, and N2O, directly coming from factory farm animals and farming (Peta, 2020). In view of that, we should be worried about the future in which the demand for beef will double by 2050.

According to the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science, the cycle of producing 1 pound of hamburger creates a similar CO2 as a European vehicle every 70 miles and requires similar energy to light a 100 watt bulb for almost 10 days (Newyorktimes, 2008). Furthermore, the Eschel study assessed that creating hamburgers requires 28 times more land, multiple times more manure, and multiple times more water than delivering pork or chicken. Current practices are prompting further deforestation, loss of territory for our environment, corruption of land, and consumption of scarce water resources.

Enter the solution – Unlike plant-based meat, cultured meat not only tastes like real meat but is exactly the same down to the very cell. According to Statista, it is expected that the worldwide lab-grown meat market, which was estimated to be 206 million dollars in 2020, could reach 572 million dollars by 2025. However, one of the most important aspects on which the success of cultured meat is dependent is the adoption rate. How much will the general public be willing to adopt this new type of meat, which was lab-grown. In a study by the University of Curtin and University of Sydney 72% of Australian people said they will not eat lab-grown meat. But chances are acceptability will increase with time when the taste will become closer to the actual meat.

Cultured (Clean) Meat vs Plant Based Meat

The process of creating cultured meat is rather complicated. The technicians take a small amount of tissue from an animal then filter and isolate cells that they can grow. Then by providing warmth and oxygen as well feeding them salt, sugar, and protein, essentially by tricking the cells to think they are still inside their owner. (Frontiersin, 2020) The cells naturally replicate as they would inside the body, growing to something that looks more and more like food. But while they can grow muscle fat and connected tissue from starter strains, the main challenge is building them in a way that recreates the meat that we are used to. Whereas plant-based meat is trying hard to look, smell, and taste like real meat. However, these products are completely made out of plant ingredients. Though both product categories are addressing the same problem they have very different approaches. But thus far plant-based companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible burger have successfully set up a proper viable business model. Contrary, cultured or clean meat is yet to hit the market. Therefore, unlike plant-based meat cultured meat’s financial viability is still remains a question.

Timeline

Let’s take a closer look at the development progress of lab-grown meat over the years.

  • In 1998 Jon Vein secured the first patent for the production of lab-grown meat tissue, which was fit for human consumption.
  • From goldfish cells, the first consumable lab-grown meat sample was produced in 2002.
  • In 2008, PETA announced that the company to first bring the lab-grown chicken would have received 1 million dollars.
  • In 2013 Dr. Mark Post created the first lab-grown beef hamburger, which was consumed at a press event hosted in London, England.
  • In 2016 SuperMeat an Israeli company ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to produce lab-grown poultry products and bring it to the market
  • In 2018 Dutch startup company Meatable claims they will be able to produce cultured meat from stem cells sourced from animal umbilical cords, solving the problem of needing to kill an animal initially to get starter cells for production. (The Guardian, 2020)

Major Players in Cultured Meat Industry

  • Higher Steaks: Highersteaks is a UK-based startup focused on cultured pork that is scalable and affordable. The startup aims to recreate the taste and texture of high-quality steaks using stem cell technology the company is aiming to have its products available on the market by 2021
  • Meatable: Meatable is a startup based in the Netherlands and is specializing in producing cultured beef. Meatable collects their stem cells from the cow’s umbilical cords, meaning no harm is done to the cow. having already raised over 3.5 million in their short existence, they plan on releasing their first product by 2022.
  • Finless Food: Finless food is a San Francisco-based startup creating real fish meat from the steam cells. their cruelty-free products are made to help combat problems like overfishing and ocean pollution as the major startup created cultured seafood they have raised over 3.5 from draper association.
  • Memphis Meat: It is one of the more versatile culture meat startups producing chicken beef and even duck products; the company has successfully taste-tested many of their products and hope s hem to be on the market by 20201. Memphis meats have raised over 20 million dollars from investors like bill gates and Richard Branson.
  • Just: It is known for a number of vegan alternatives to a variety of products, just have recently been on working on cultured meat. working closely with a Japanese farm company producing cultured wagyu beef. just are leading the way in the lab-grown meat industry having raised 310 million from venture capital firms

Corporations have also begun the shift into plant-based protein amid pressure from upstarts and changes in consumer behavior. The world’s largest meat company, JBS launched its own meatless protein in June 2020. Other meatpackers offering their own lines of plant-based alternatives include Tyson, Smithfield, Hormel, and Cargill. (Newsfoodmagazine, 2020)

Conclusion

Cultured meat has potential but it is still in the beginning phase. There are multiple challenges including technological and social. The social challenges may have more far-fetching consequences. With potential customers raising moral and ethical questions. On top of these pressing issues, the other main concerns are the regulation involving the cultured meat industry. Government and political parties need to play an active role and ease regulations to help the lab-grown meat industry achieve its full potential.

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