In an age where Netflix documentaries tend to govern all social conversation, apathy is no longer acceptable. As we’ve come to learn from the likes of Cowspiracy and The Game Changers, the food we eat not only has a direct impact on our own health, but has a profound influence on the environment and issues of sustainability. It’s partly why the world of cultured meat, otherwise known as no-kill, lab-grown meat, has garnered such widespread attention. As more and more of us take a discerning eye to our eating habits, we want to know the foods we are eating are ethically sourced and sustainable. Consequently, lab-grown meat could just be a landmark moment for the meat industry.
For the uninitiated, unlike popular plant-based products like the Impossible Burger, no0kill meat does contain real meat grown from cells derived from living animals. The difference, though, is that there’s no need to raise or slaughter actual animals. The technology essentially means the cells can be taken from biopsies of living animals, and the nutrients supplied to the growing cells are all from plants. The result is a product that could fundamentally change the meat industry.
One of the companies leading the charge is that of Eat Just in the United States. As The Guardian reports, the success of the company comes at a time when the alternative protein industry is booming. “In 2020, a record $3.1bn was invested into companies developing alternatives to meat, eggs and dairy, according to a report by the Good Food Institute.”
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As of January 2020, no cultured meat products had been sold on the market or approved in any country. But that changed in December of last year, when Singapore became the first to approve “chicken bites” from Eat Just. With the goal of replacing your chicken dinners with lab-grown fillets in the near future, more and more companies are looking to create lab-grown animal products where no animal has been killed, nor a tree torn down.
Still, the reality of “chicken bites” produced in the lab and marketed on a mass scale are far off. Some suggest it will be years before we see such things available here in Australia or the United States. The primary issue to be overcome is that of cost, with very few companies able to make their products for less than about $100 for a meal-size serving. How these products will be made and sold for anything close to supermarket price remains a challenge.
Then, there’s the issue of government regulators as few companies have managed to have their products approved and made public. Needless to say, there are challenges but the race to be the first company to produce lab-grown meat en masse is one that has excited countless startups, working on everything from chicken to beef to fish, with both humans and pets in their sights.