Meat grown in a lab may sound strange, but it’s the sustainable, clean, animal-friendly future of meat, according to the Good Food Institute. How will it be marketed to the meat-loving masses?
Americans eat a great deal of meat—198 pounds for every capita yearly, to be correct. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which detailed that figure, says Americans will expend significantly more meat—up to 207.5 pounds for each individual every year—by 2024.
Beside Americans inclining toward the savage, many individuals have made trenchant reactions of the meat business generally speaking, one being its impact on nature. Animals, for instance, contribute 14.5% of worldwide ozone harming substance discharges, as per the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. There are likewise worries about creature brutality, cleanliness and straightforwardness of mechanical cultivating. As writer Michael Pollan notes in his point of interest 2006 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “Were the dividers of our meat industry to end up plainly straightforward, actually or even allegorically, we would not long keep on raising, murder and eat creatures the way we do.”
However, what should be possible to decrease the cons of modern meat? Americans adore meat and the quantity of homesteads dropped from about 7 million of every 1935 to approximately 2 million out of 2012, as indicated by the USDA, leaving modern ranches to command the meat business. The meatless meat industry, for example, tofu and seitan—is no match for the traditional meat industry. Furthermore, the eventual fate of meatless meat, ready to create $6 billion by 2022 (per Markets and Markets), is overshadowed by the meat business’ present deals quantities of $198 billion out of 2013 (per the Meat Institute).
The Good Food Institute, a Washington, D.C.- based charitable, may have an answer: clean meat. Clean meat is developed in a lab utilizing cell horticulture, an innovation that develops genuine meat from cells without raising or butchering creatures. GFI’s central goal incorporates showcase based activities, utilization of sustenance innovation to end industrial facility cultivating and empowering sympathetic and practical nourishment sources, for example, clean meat.
Showcasing News talked with GFI’s senior specialized master Emily Byrd to take in more about how clean meat is made, how it will be promoted and how it will endeavor to enter the market.
Q: For those who may not be aware, what are the arguments against the use of animal products?
A: Industrial animal agriculture is at the root of four major global problems. If you’re looking at public health and human health, a lot of these products are shown to induce chronic diseases like heart disease, obesity, diabetes—no one is arguing that everyone needs more cheese or red meat in their diet. It’s also contributing to antibiotic resistance on a global scale because of the steady stream of antibiotics that we’re feeding to farm animals.
Beyond that, there’s a huge environmental problem. The [most recent] UN Food and Agriculture report, titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” mentioned industrial animal agriculture as the leading cause of deforestation, biodiversity loss, land use, water pollution and water use. It is also a leading driver of climate change, producing more than the entire transportation sector. Of course [animal products] are a problem for animal welfare as well. That’s pretty self-explanatory. The animals live in horrible conditions in factory farms.
“Allowing cells to reproduce and grow is truly natural and far more appetizing than cramming 50,000 birds into a feces-filled barn and pumping them full of growth-promoting antibiotics.”
There’s also an implication for global poverty. Hundreds of millions of metric tons of usable feed crops, such as wheat and corn, are turned into export crops from developing nations to the developed world. This is driving up the price of grain and creating competition for these edible foods between affluent [markets] and the global poor. It’s a swell of problems associated with the way that we currently produce food, especially the way that we produce animal products in the industrial farming system. We realize that people are fairly well aware that factory farming isn’t the ideal, but it’s not exactly easy to get alternative products out unless you want to make a huge dietary behavior change. And that isn’t in the cards in time to address the environmental concerns.
Q: Maybe this is just my big-city bias, but it seems public perception on animal products is shifting. I’ve seen more meat alternatives at restaurants and in grocery stores. In your view, has the public’s perception of non-meat meat products changed from just a few years ago?
A: I think that people are becoming more aware of the implications of the system. But then there’s the question of how much people are really eating in line with their values. I think all the time about how I care about the environment, I care about supporting local farmers, I care about animals, but the overwhelming sociological research shows that people make their food purchasing decisions based on three factors: taste, price and convenience. It makes sense. You can’t actually buy a product that’s better if it’s not accessible or you can’t afford it. And of course, the taste part is self-explanatory. We have this idea that we’re more aware and we’re trying to make better decisions. I think people are paying more attention to labels, but far and away the products that are most easily accessible and affordable are the products that are least sustainably produced.
Memphis Meat meatball served with fettucine.
Q: What are the GFI’s efforts to shift public perception?
A: We are looking at some groundbreaking food technology. We focus on plant-based meat, dairy and eggs, stuff like the Impossible Burger or Beyond Burger. Bill Gates actually invested in Beyond Meat. Tyson is also invested in Beyond Meat, which is really interesting. It gives us a lot of hope. The food industry giants are realizing they need to take a more sustainable tract or else it will actually cause business concerns down the line.
We also focus on the products of cellular agriculture. This is like [cow-free dairy company] Perfect Day producing milk without cows. [They use] a fairly simple fermentation process in the same way that we produce insulin where you take a microbe, typically of yeast, and get it to express a dairy protein. That’s really phenomenal stuff where you can actually make an identical product circumventing the entire factory farming system and the slaughterhouse.
Within cellular agriculture, there’s also a slightly different technology that can be used to grow meat outside of an animal without breeding, raising or slaughtering animals. It’s the same method used in tissue engineering for regenerative medicine, but applied to food.
Q: Can you give me a brief history of clean meat, how it came to be and how it’s produced?
A: We’ve been referring to this as “clean meat” for a few different reasons. Partially, it’s a nod to clean energy because it’s fundamentally better for the environment, but also because it’s literally cleaner from the basic sanitation standpoint. If you’re getting meat from a factory farm, e-coli, salmonella, campylobacter and fecal matter are all standard. By circumventing that system, we’re able to protect meat from those contaminants.
These technologies have been well-developed in the field of regenerative medicine; that’s really what you can trace it back to. But the first time it came into the public consciousness writ large was when Mark Post produced the first clean meat hamburger in 2013. He was a professor at the University of Maastricht and has since launched Mosa Meats. Since then, there have been a handful of other companies that have launched, like SuperMeat in Israel and then Memphis Meats here in the Bay Area. Memphis Meats released the first clean meat poultry products—chicken and duck. I actually got to try the duck, which was incredible; a really cool experience. And I’ve been a vegetarian for about a decade, so it was pretty cool, strange and, sadly, very delicious.
Clean duck from Memphis Meats.
Q: You’re a vegetarian so I’m not sure if you can compare it to the standard meat, but what have you heard as far as taste comparisons? Is clean meat pretty on par with real meat?
A: Oh, yeah. The thing is, it actually is meat. It definitely is about getting the perfect ratio of cell types, so that can change the taste or texture, but it was amazing, and it was also prepared by a phenomenal chef. [The duck] was perfectly tender, melt-in-your-mouth and kind of gamey. I didn’t get to try the fried chicken, but I hear that it, as one would expect, tasted like chicken but slightly less stringy than conventional chicken.
That gets into the production method. Basically, it requires four principal technologies: There is a cell line that is the initial sample of animal cells that includes muscle cells, fat cells, etc., and then media, which is a mixture of ingredients that works as a food source for the cell lines encouraging them to grow and divide. Then there’s scaffolding, which structures the end product and encourages differentiation of cell types into an organized pattern. That [determines] either the flavor or texture. If you’re creating a ground meat product, that’s fairly simplistic; you need the right ratio of cells. If you’re creating steak, it is a little bit more difficult to get the perfect marbling and co-culturing. The final factor is a bioreactor, which is similar to fermenters in a beer brewery. It’s a location where cell lines are kept and grow on the scaffold.
Q: Are there any marketing initiatives thus far?
A: Both of the leading experts in clean meat products—Dr. Uma Valeti from Memphis Meats and Mark Post at Mosa Meats—have made the goal of getting this onto the market within five years and get it cost-competitive within 10. Right now, it’s still in the scale-up phase, still trying to figure out what the perfect market entry point would be. Perhaps it could be a value-added product to plant-based food in the beginning to really get that visceral meat taste companies like Impossible Foods are incorporating. But there’s also the possibility of incorporating actual meat that’s been grown through cellular agriculture into otherwise plant-based products. Or [its entry point could be as a] high-value product, probably in higher-end restaurants at first, but the goal of everyone doing this is to eventually create products that are less expensive than even the least expensive conventionally produced chicken. Something that can meet the accessibility and affordability needs of everyone. That’s how it’s going to be a global solution: if we can scale up, bring costs down and replace the products of factory farming instead of just adding another product in the market.
Q: Is clean meat out on the market anywhere yet?
A: No it’s not. Small tasting events, but that’s all.
Q: I’ve seen a few different names for this: clean meat, cultured meat, meatless meat, lab-grown meat. Is there a consensus on what the best marketing strategy is for naming a product that is so unique?
A: We have come down on the side of clean meat. Our scientists were at the 2016 Institute of Food technologist meeting last year and were talking to people about cultured meat. Even the premier food scientists were saying, “Does that have something to do with culturing like for yogurt?” They didn’t associate it with cell culture because culturing has such a pre-established meaning in the food world. We found it to be ineffective. Instead of actually talking about this process and why it’s being done and why it’s important, we got down the rabbit hole of trying to clear up misconceptions right from the get-go.
“Clean meat involves growing meat in the equivalent of a brewery—it’s safe, clean and efficient. By contrast, it’s hard to imagine anything less natural than a modern factory farm.”
Then there’s lab-grown meat, and that seems ridiculous because that’s not going to describe what the meat is at scale. Any sort of processed food or food that requires any sort of science starts in a food lab—you could talk the same way about corn flakes. [Clean meat] is going to be produced in basically the equivalent of a brewery—like any other food. You wouldn’t talk about lab-grown cereal. That [name] gives people an odd conception of what this technology is or what it would be on the market.
There are positive differentiators that we really want to put front and center. We want to make sure that people are entirely in the know about the process and make it totally transparent. But at the end of the day, it is interesting to find a term for it because what you’re making is just meat. It’s not different from the other products in any way except that it’s produced in a way that’s more sustainable and better for people, the planet and animals.
Q: Is that confusion a roadblock for marketing? It’s real meat, but it’s also grown differently than what people are used to. Is that a point that you’ll have to make with the average consumer?
A: It’s a conversation we’re having very openly now with consumers and in the media. We don’t want it to be a high-end product. [Similar products] are very expensive and not very accessible to people. If this is going to be a solution, it needs to be something that everyone can see.
Right now, people eat meat despite how it’s produced, not because of it. They’re not thinking about the inefficiency or the horrible conditions on factory farms or slaughterhouses, and they haven’t been given an alternative. They haven’t been presented with two options: meat from these overcrowded and environmentally harmful factory farms versus meat that’s grown in a safer, more efficient way. Honestly, if Madison Avenue can sell meat from industrial farms with all of the horrible things that go on, it can certainly sell the comparative advantages of meat grown in a clean meat brewery.
Q: What do you see being the main method of bringing this product to market?
A: It’s yet to be seen exactly what the market entry point will be, and that will be determined by the companies at that time, but we think it will fall within one of two pathways: a higher-end product initially and then, within two years, right in the middle in every meat counter or a value-add product to other plant-based alternatives. It’s certainly not an all-or-nothing proposition.
Q: What is the philosophy behind going high-end initially—is it to build up some hype?
A: Partially to build up some hype and partially because of legitimate cost constraints. That’s essentially what’s happening with [plant-based meat company] Impossible Foods, although they’re scaling up pretty dramatically since they opened their new production facility in March. [Going high-end] is introducing people to this food in a way that’s exciting. It taps into a lot of trendsetters and chefs in the scene and lets people know that this is something totally delicious and embraced by people who are very culinary-minded. Then eventually [we want to spread] it worldwide and make it accessible to people. But it does definitely build some hype and helps these companies test the product out and get it on the market while they’re scaling up.
Clean fired chicken from Memphis Meats.
Q: Do you expect any regulatory or lobbying obstacles in introducing this product?
A: We expect it to be a really smooth regulatory process. We have a policy director whose sole job … is defining the regulatory pathway for clean meat. Under the USDA, meat is regulated based on animal slaughter. Since clean meat doesn’t involve slaughter, it’s going to be a very interesting pathway forward. But the White House just commissioned a report from the National Academy of Sciences on biotechnology products that will come of age within the next 10 years. In that report, they mention clean meat as an area of high growth potential and recommend a single and clear regulatory pathway, so that is extremely promising.
Our hope is that the meat industry will join us. There are already companies, such as Tyson and Hormel, expressing interest. Who better to be creating chicken nuggets than Tyson, the people who are well-established and have the resources? They’re really being pushed in this direction toward sustainability as well. Last year, there was an investor coalition representing $1.25 trillion in assets, and they reached the top 16 food companies basically demanding that they come up with a plan to investigate sustainable protein alternatives because they realized that factory farming is a material risk to their assets and food security in the future. Shortly after that, Tyson Foods launched its $150 million [venture capital] arm to specifically invest in sustainable protein, and they’ve mentioned both plant-based and clean meats as potential investment areas. Their very first investment was in Beyond Meat.
Q: Is there any argument you’ve heard against clean meat that the GFI is preparing for?
A: Definitely not within the industry. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was pushback from someone. Any time there is a new product that could be seen as competition instead of collaboration, there’s a chance for pushback, but we have not seen that. We’ve seen a lot of people being forthcoming about wanting to investigate this technology and get ahead of the curve. There’s a sense that a lot of these companies who really want to get ahead of this are already feeling as though they’re falling behind the curve of sustainable protein production.
“People eat meat despite how it’s produced, not because of it. They’re not thinking about the inefficiency or the horrible conditions on factory farms or slaughterhouses, and they haven’t been given an alternative.”
Q: Is the entry point likely going to be in the U.S. first?
A: Really too soon to tell. It will probably be global. I know that Memphis Meats will likely stick to the U.S. first, but again, there’s SuperMeat in Israel and Mosa Meats in the Netherlands. There are companies globally who are producing this product, and their mission is global.
Q: What is the GFI doing right now to lay the groundwork for marketing?
A: We’re trying to educate people about the process and the benefits. There is this aversion to food science, although science plays a role in every bit of food that we eat. We believe that’s because people feel like they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes or they don’t like the business practices of some companies who are employing these technologies.
We believe it’s critically important that people understand every aspect of what’s going into [clean meat] and face the reality of the food they’re eating now as well. Clean meat involves growing meat in the equivalent of a brewery—it’s safe, clean and efficient. By contrast, it’s hard to imagine anything less natural than a modern factory farm. Modern farm animals are Frankenstein animals. The chickens grow six to seven times as quickly as they would naturally, and cows give more than 10 times their normal milk output. Turkeys are so top-heavy they can’t even breathe naturally. Almost all meat is the product of artificial insemination and massive doses of growth-promoting drugs. In contrast, allowing cells to reproduce and grow is a pretty solid option—it’s truly natural and far more appetizing than cramming 50,000 birds into a feces-filled barn and pumping them full of growth-promoting antibiotics. It’s just about offering [consumers] a choice.
Q: The factory farm conditions you discussed were found through a lot of reporting and undercover work. The meat industry has lacked transparency for years, so it’s interesting that GFI is focusing on transparency. Is that openness something you are trying to keep up with during this whole process?
A: We are absolutely committed to it. I was having this conversation with Dr. Valeti from Memphis Meats the other day. We were on a tirade about ag[riculture]-gag laws and how horrible they are. Modern factory farms are actually making it illegal to know what’s going on inside of them because if people were aware, they wouldn’t want to participate in this, whereas everyone at Memphis Meats has openly made the promise that they are happy to do tours of their [facility] in the future because there’s nothing to hide. There’s nothing that would upset people or turn them off from the food. And that’s such a huge win. That’s so promising that people can finally eat with both eyes open and feel OK about it.