'Cultivated Meat' (also known as cultured, slaughter-free or ‘Clean Meat’ is meat that is grown in a cell culture, rather than in an animal´s body. Using this groundbreaking technology, one is able to create a meat product without the need of animal slaughter.
What is the difference between cell-based, lab-grown, cultured or clean meat?
There are many ways in which the term is referred to, but they all mean the same. However, the term cultivated meat is one that reflects the criteria of neutrality and descriptiveness making it also more appealing to consumers. According to Mattson president and chief innovation officer Barb Stuckey “The term ‘cultivate’ really works. A cultivator is where the cells are grown; cultivation is the process of allowing the cells to multiply; and cultivated can describe the final product, which is meat, poultry, or seafood.”*
How does the process work?
Within the development of cultivated meat there are different production methods, which are used by leading start-ups worldwide. In general, to produce a steak or a hamburger patty, a small sample of stem cells from the live animal – usually from lean muscle- is taken through a harmless procedure in the same way that blood is drawn. These cells are then replicated in a culture outside the animal. After sufficient cells have grown, they are assembled in groups to form small muscle tissue. The resulting product is 100 percent real meat.*
However, innovative processes are rapidly developing, so there are new ways to create meat without taking a biopsy from a live animal. For instance, some start-ups are working on developing chicken meat just from a single feather.
What is the benefit for the animals?
To produce cultivated meat , no animal needs to be slaughtered, however we are still unaware of the welfare of the remaining animals overall. Once cultivated meat is on the market, it might have the potential to replace conventional meat products coming from animals which were kept in factory farms. Thus in the long-term, the number of farm animals could significantly be reduced which would be beneficial for the animals themselves, as well as for the environment and climate.
Is cultivated meat genetically modified?
According to European producers and scientists, clean meat is not genetically modified*. Cultivated meat can be comprised of the same unmodified cells as conventional meat: cells from muscle, fat, and connective tissue.
In other countries outside the EU, where genetically modification is an allowed method, companies say that it could assist in the advancement of cultivated meat research and/or in the production of cultivated meat. However, more research is required to determine in what ways genetic modification could be advantageous, and what the implications of these modifications might be.**
Is there any animal suffering involved in the production of cultivated meat?
Not enough information is currently available on how animals are selected and used for the extraction of their stem cells nor how or where they are kept. To ensure that the cells grow after the cells have been obtained, a growing serum needs to be added to the cells. In the beginning of the overall production of cultivated meat , the common supplement was fetal calf serum – also known as fetal bovine serum – a product that is cruelly derived from the fetuses of cows which is considered to be a rich source of nutrients. From an animal welfare perspective this is a cruel method, which is not in line with animal welfare standards and thus cannot be supported by animal welfare organizations. However, new developments in the process enable that it is not necessary to use animal serum (bovine fetal serum) for cultivated meat production anymore, and can be replaced with plant-based or synthetic alternatives.*
Is it safe to eat cultivated meat?
Cultivated meat is made in a process similar to brewing beer, or yeast grown for breadmaking, and other foods made by large-scale cell cultures. Due to the production method it is also possible to add other components, like taste carriers or vitamins. As it is produced in a clean environment and needs to go through rigorous safety regulations before it will hit the market, it is safe for human consumption. It is also for this reason that the term 'lab-grown' meat is not preferred nor accurate, because at production scale, cellular agriculture will not happen in a lab.
Are any antibiotics being used for the production?
Overall, cultivated meat does not require the use of antibiotics at all.
When will the products hit the market?
There are different timings given by the producing companies. The company Mosa Meat which is working on beef, plan to have the first cultivated meat burgers in high-end restaurants by 2021. Others, like the American start-up company JUST expects to bring their chicken product on the market until the next 1-2 years. It is the goal that pricing will be competitive with conventional meat products, whenever it will be launched on a larger scale.
What are the environmental benefits of cultivated meat?
The consumption of meat and other animal related products is growing at a rapid rate, especially in developing countries. According to recent studies, the demand for meat will double by 2050. As well as the fact that many animals are subjected to huge suffering as a result of this industry, the increasing demand for meat and dairy products, is also having a detrimental effect on the environment and climate. World-wide, 14.5 % of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions are from animal production, of which the beef and dairy industries play a big part, due to the high demand for animal feed as well as the releases of methane, which are the biggest polluters in the sector. And even 70 % percent of arable land is used for livestock. One kg of beef requires 15,000 liters of fresh water to produce.
As preliminary life cycle analyses have shown, cultivated meat could lead to a substantial saving in land and water usage, up to 90 %*. Greenhouse gas emissions as well as the energy use can be decreased when replacing conventional meat with cultivated meat, however this is linked to and depends on the meat type itself and the consumption rate per country. Regarding greenhouse gases, cultivated meat will reduce the methane exhaust as only few cows are needed for gaining the muscle tissue. Same effects can also be transferred to other meat products like chicken or pig meat.
Which companies are working on it?
In different parts of the world, mainly in the Netherlands, USA, Singapore and Israel, there are a few start-ups who are working on the development of cultivated meat.To mention some of them: Memphis Meat (USA), Hampton Creek (USA), New Harvest (USA), Modern Meadow (USA), Eat Just (USA), Mosa Meat (NL), Meatable (NL), SuperMeat (ISR), Aleph Farms (ISR), Future Meat Technologies (ISR), Meat the Future (ISR), Integriculture Inc (Jap), Innocent Meat (GER), and many more!
Does FOUR PAWS support the development of cultivated meat?
As an animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS appreciates and supports scientific progress which aims to reduce or eliminate the suffering of farmed animals in intensive farming systems and to drastically reduce the number of slaughtered animals in the long run. Cultivated meat is poised to become a competitor of factory farming and possibly revolutionize the food industry. However, since it’s still in its development phase, FOUR PAWS is closely observing the (market) developments made and the whole process as future consequences for farm animals are still unpredictable.
Why is FOUR PAWS not focusing on plant-based alternatives only, as the most animal-friendly solution?
FOUR PAWS is an advocate of an animal-friendly lifestyle and encourages the reduction of animal-derived products and opting for a more plant-based diet. Read more about 'The 3Rs Principle' here!
Looking at the overall meat consumption which is continuously rising, meat is one of the favorite food items worldwide and it is unlikely that everyone will switch to a vegan diet. As cultivated meat is real meat, it might be a way to minimize cruelty to farmed animals and a way to support the end of intensive farming and factory farms, because meat can be delivered in a high quantity without the need to breed, raise, keep and slaughter billions of animals for it, like it is done today.