Are you familiar with clean meat? Probably not. But if I say “lab meat”, I’m sure it rings a bell.
Let’s start with “lab meat” then. Meat was originally grown in a laboratory so astronauts could grow their own meat without taking an animal in the spaceship. The concept was straightforward: the body hosts cells whose only purpose is to create muscles. By isolating these cells and giving them a proper environment, they keep producing muscles in a petri dish.
And so it started
In 2002, Jason Matheny, a public health Johns Hopkins university student, saw another use for the concept: if we can produce meat without the animals by using only a few of their cells, we could eliminate mass farming.
This idea wasn’t “new” so to speak. Other visionary minds have been predicting the switch to other ways of getting meat. As early as 1894, the French chemistry professor Pierre-Eugène- Marcellin Berthelot, claimed that by the year 2000, we would be eating meat coming from labs rather than from slaughtered houses. And he wasn’t the only one with this belief. In 1931, in his “Fifty Years Hence” essay, Winston Churchill shared the same conviction: “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium”.
The biggest disruption since 1885
This might be the biggest disruption in the way we live since cars. And here’s an interesting parallel: in 1880, US government experts predicted that by 1980, New York City would no longer exist, buried under tonnes of manure. At that point, many associations and animal advocates had been trying, for years, to discuss the horses’ living conditions and to reduce their presence and workload in the city. This problem was only solved – and the horses saved from intensive labour – thanks to Henry Ford and his automobile. Ford himself said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Why cellular agriculture?
For the simple reason that our modern farming methods aren’t efficient enough, and we are facing ecological, ethical, and safety issues. “Take every car, bus, truck, train, ship, airplane, rocket ship all together. They still produce less greenhouse emissions than the animal/agriculture industry”, says the Stanford biology professor Brown.
Producing beef in a laboratory instead of a conventional farming facility uses 45% less energy, 99% less land, and 96% less water, according to Oxford University researcher Hanna Tuomisto.
The animal protein industry is shifting
Today, a quarter of the planet’s ice-free land is used for livestock grazing, and a third of cropland is going directly to feeding farmed animals. With the always-growing population and its increasing appetite for meat, industrial farming doesn’t seem to be a long-term solution. And some companies are realizing it: Smithfield Foods – the largest pork producer in the world – have already started supporting cultured-meat research.
The biggest meat producer in Canada, Maple Leaf Foods, has bought two plant-based companies, echoing a clear shift. And many smaller start-ups dedicated to clean meat have been born in the last few years.
Since 2011, many start-ups dedicated to clean meat and fish were born. Modern Meadow, Memphis meats, Future Meat Technologies, Mosa meats, Finless Foods, SuperMeat; all are racing to reduce the costs of producing animal proteins in a lab as well as researching how to grow different types of cuts. Other companies like Perfect Day, Geltor or Clara Foods are investigating other animal by products such as milk, gelatine, and eggs.
With new technologies come new products. Some companies are focussing on one-of-a-kind foods, impossible to create until recently:
- Real Vegan Cheese promises to make cheese out of synthesized narwhal milk
- Geltor created a gummy candy using mastodon gelatin from an animal that went extinct a millennia ago
- Modern Meadow created the next generation of protein snack with meat chips
Why clean meat when we already have plant-based proteins?
Paul Shapiro, author of Washington Post bestselling book Clean Meat, compares it to renewable energies: it’s only with a combination of solutions, such as wind energy, solar energy, thermo energy and hydro energy, that we will widely let go of carbon-based energy. In the case of meat, we need different alternatives to reduce our consumption of conventional animal protein.
Will people eat it?
To this question Shapiro responds with the results of a study showing that that “1/3 of people interviewed said they would eat clean meat, and 2/3 said they would at least taste it.” And why wouldn’t they? Clean meat being better for the planet, the day it becomes cheaper to produce than conventional meat, it will make no sense to keep farming the way we do today.
Shapiro also believes that once we don’t need to kill animals to eat meat, it will become even less appealing. Just like once horses weren’t needed for labour, they became more of a companion than a working tool.
For anyone who loves the flavour of meat, this is the perfect product. Unlike most plant-based products designed to taste like meat, Clean Meat IS meat, and therefore the flavour is the same. It’s also safer to eat: even raw, it doesn’t contain any bacteria.
And with a slogan like “Save the planet, eat Clean Meat,” why not try?
What’s the future of cellular agriculture?
The first cultured hamburger was created in 2013 for $330,000, aided by funding from Sergey Brin. In 2016, the first cultured meatball was produced for a fraction of the price: $1,200.
While the price of clean meat keeps decreasing, it is still too high to offer to the public. However, cultured milk and eggs will arrive more quickly. The process is simpler: By adding water, sugar and minerals to a yeast-like enzyme, we can able to create those animal products.
But cellular agriculture has a clear future in the food and foodservice industry, and it won’t stop there. It’s about to revolutionize the fashion industry, thanks to the ability to create genuine leather in a lab!
To learn more about the future of food, join Restaurants Canada at our annual national trade show #RCShow18.
Get your tickets here: microspec.com/reg/RCS2018/