Since it was first introduced, the concept of lab-grown meat has proven extremely controversial.
Although it represents a considerable advancement in environmental sustainability, most consumers remain unconvinced and believe it to be an untrustworthy source of protein. That’s why Australian researchers have set out to challenge this assertion with their Meat Re-imagined white paper.
The extensive research, conducted by the Aussie think tank Food Frontiers, reckons that it’s only a matter of time until this so-called “clean” meat dominates the market. For now though, the high cost of lab-grown meat means it is reserved only for top-market restaurateurs. This is exemplified in the paper by Singapore-based Shiok Meats who claim they can only currently afford to target “high-end restaurants for gastronomical experiences.”
Nevertheless, the paper notes that huge changes are ahead as the price of creating lab-grown meat is set to decrease soon. Shiok Meats even claim that they will be ready to start selling commercial “clean” seafood by 2020/21. Similarly, American manufacturer JUST claims it will be selling lab-grown products within a “30% price range of conventional meat in the near future.”
The production of lab-grown meat apparently hinges on four areas: cell lines (sources), culture medium (nutrients/feed), scaffolding (physical support) and bioreactors (cultivators). All of these areas represent complications and exorbitant cost implications which currently prevent this type of meat from entering the mainstream.
Furthermore, the regulations surrounding “clean” meat are extremely ambiguous, fuelling fears surrounding its authenticity. Only the United States has pledged to properly regulate this area through their Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture. Even in this case, the specifics are unclear at best. The report also notes that, while the poultry and pork industries are more open-minded towards new technologies, the cattle industry remains defensive and unmalleable.
Overall, the authors of the report note that further customer education is integral to the launch of lab-grown meat. Consumers need a solid understanding in how these controversial products can benefit both them and the environment. While they currently perceive “clean” meat to be veering on the unnatural, further education could effectively persuade them to make the switch. Above all else, the report notes, this type of meat would remove the need for antibiotics commonly used in animal-rearing.