Who’s hungry for lab-grown meat?

Cell-cultured meat may soon be approved for sale in the U.S.

That’s the hope of companies such as Eat Just, whose lab-grown meat was the first to go on sale earlier this year in Singapore. Its cell-cultured chicken is available in private clubs for a premium price while the company works to scale up.

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

Eat Just recently raised $170 million from investors who think lab-grown meat is going to be successful. That’s on top of nearly $200 million raised by Upside Foods (formerly Memphis Meats).

Now these startups are looking to the FDA and USDA with hopes to bring their products to market within the next year.

According to consumer research, plant-based meat’s appeal is based on the notion that it is better for your personal health. In fact, this perception isn’t true. Dietitians have noted that meat imitations have the same amount of fat and calories, and more sodium, than natural meat.

But, those facts haven’t been able to outcompete the marketing dollars spent by fake meat companies, and plant-based meat has gotten a small foothold in the market.

Many in animal agriculture are wondering: Will consumers jump on lab-grown meat with the same appetite as plant-based?

A lot of it depends on what you call the stuff. Cultured meat? Cellular meat? Lab-grown meat? Frankenmeat? Whichever moniker sticks will determine a lot. Words create ideas. And ideas have consequences.

Consider: Pew asked consumers if they would be willing to try “meat grown in a lab.” Only 20% said yes, while 78% said no.

Then a cultured meat company funded its own recent consumer survey. In this one, consumers were given a general description of the technology and some terms like cell-cultured or cultivated meat. The result was 40% said they were “highly likely” to try it and another 40% said somewhat likely. Only 20% said they were against trying lab-grown meat.

The “ick” factor looms large over lab-grown meat. My organization created a website (www.CleanFoodFacts.com) to educate consumers about what ingredients are in synthetic meat: Industrial additives including titanium dioxide and methylcellulose. There is potential crossover with lab-grown meat.

Lab-grown meat companies don’t reveal how they grow the stuff — that’s a trade secret. Patent searches reveal the general methodology of using hormones, growth factors, and other biological substances to simulate a live body.

Like a bodybuilder injecting steroids, the levels of these growth factors can be manipulated when growing meat from cell cultures. And a lot of these substances have uses in medicine but also have side effects including nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath and cancer.

Just as we don’t know the long term effects of consuming titanium dioxide in plant-based meat imitations, we don’t know what the long term effects are of consuming unnaturally grown meat.

Here’s a wild card: Will there be backlash from some activist groups against lab-grown meat?

Anti-GMO, pro-organic activists have launched a campaign pressuring supermarkets not to sell genetically modified salmon, grown on land-based farms in half the time of non-GM salmon. They are ideologically opposed to GMO technology.

To date, they’ve had success, with retailers including Walmart, Costco, Target and Kroger, as well as major foodservice brands, pledging not to sell genetically modified salmon.

These activists have an ideology that eschews modern technology and favors organic production practices. I think they’re wrong to oppose GMO technology. But on the issue of cell-cultured meat, these activists may be an unlikely ally.

“Second-generation, lab-created animal protein replacement products are not yet proven to be safe or sustainable by regulators or via transparent, independent third-party assessments. Rather, there are increasing concerns and questions that remain unanswered, and existing analyses show that these products may be problems masquerading as solutions,” writes Friends of the Earth.

While these guys aren’t friends of conventional agriculture, this may be a “strange bedfellows” opportunity.

Cell-cultured meat is a different challenge than plant-based meat imitations. But there are facts to indicate that the public won’t find it so appetizing.

The key question is: Will these facts be known by the general public — and known early — or will they be overtaken by product normalization with only one side talking?

Par Rick Berman (08/06/2021)

Rick Berman is the executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom.

Source : meatingplace.com