Quantcast

This Little Lab-Grown Piggy Went to Market: Clean Meat Is on the Rise

www.youtube.com

By Andrew Amelinckx

Lab-grown meat goes by many names—clean meat, cultured protein, animal-free meat, and so on—and all the various producers, of which there are eight around the world, use the same basic premise. At its most elementary, the process involves taking stem cells from a living animal, say, a chicken, then feeding those cells various nutrients until enough tissue is produced for the desired outcome: a burger, fried chicken or duck a l'orange.

According to boosters of this technology, there are fewer environmental problems with clean meat than the traditional method of raising and slaughtering animals. Producing meat without actually growing and feeding an animal requires fewer resources—a tenth of the land and water, and less than half of the energy conventional meat needs, according to Uma Valeti, the CEO of Memphis Meats, whom Modern Farmer interviewed earlier this year.


This seems to be China's main reason for their interest. The Chinese government has been steadily trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially in the face of a growing middle class that's consuming more meat. According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, about 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gasses comes from the livestock sector. Among China's efforts was a recent move to implement more sustainable agricultural practices, like organic growing methods.

"The Chinese market for meat is still growing while fighting climate change, pollution and food safety issues are high on the agenda of the Chinese leadership," Peter Verstrate, CEO of the Dutch company Mosa Meat, told Modern Farmer. "There's no better way to combine the two than by developing and scaling clean meat."

Mosa Meat was born in the lab of Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, where the first clean hamburger (their nomenclature of choice? "tissue-cultured" meat) debuted in 2013. Verstrate's company wouldn't see any direct advantages from the China-Israel deal nonetheless sees it as a positive. The Chinese investment in clean tech, including clean meat, is "even more validation of the fact that this is a field worth exploring and developing," he says.

The biggest winners from the deal will likely be the three Israeli clean meat companies, SuperMeat, Meat the Future, and Future Meat Technologies, since it would allow them to break into the potentially lucrative Chinese market. Shir Friedman, co-founder and CCO of SuperMeat said the company's "very excited to see the global and mutual interest in clean technology."

Bruce Friedrich, head of the The Good Food Institute, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that lobbies on behalf of the alternative meat industry, called China's interest in clean meat "a colossal market opportunity" for everyone involved in the burgeoning field. "This could put [lab-grown] meat onto the radar of Chinese officials who have the capacity to steer billions of dollars into this technology," Friedrich recently told Quartz.

China isn't alone in their interest in clean meat. Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson, and the agricultural giant Cargill, have all this year invested in the Bay Area startup Memphis Meats as part of their $17 million Series A funding round. "Something similar might happen in Europe too," said Verstrate.

All these clean meat startups, which are mostly based in Silicon Valley and Israel, are vying to be the first to get their products to market, whether it be beef, chicken, pork or duck. (Some, like Memphis Meats, have done prototypes, but there's not yet a product you can buy at your local grocery store.)

The problem is how to scale in a way that gets lab-grown meat to a reasonable price point, and production costs are coming down quickly. Back in 2013, it cost a whopping $330,000 to produce the first patty-sized hunk of lab-grown beef. At the time, Post said he believed lab-grown meat wouldn't be in grocery stores for another 10 to 20 years. But now, the price of producing that size burger is already down to $11.36. Quite a difference.

"The biggest impediment in moving clean meat forward is mass production and scale," says SuperMeat's Friedman, whose company hopes to reach the market in about five years.

Four to five years seems to be the general goal to get lab-meat on retail shelves, although Mosa Meat is aiming for a "small scale and premium market introduction" in two to three years, according to Verstrate. From there they would "continue to improve and scale the product" and be ready for a full rollout "a few years" later.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City. Ben Sutherland / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less
Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

Read More Show Less
Edwin Hardeman is the plaintiff in the first U.S. federal trial claiming that Roundup causes cancer. NOAH BERGER / AFP / Getty Images

A second U.S. jury has ruled that Roundup causes cancer.

The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The decision comes less than a year after a jury awarded $289 million to Bay-area groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson over similar claims. The amount was later reduced to $78 million.

"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."

Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.

"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.

"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.