Once again, high profile investors have taken interest in the project with both Bill Gates and Richard Branson pumping $17 million into the company. Aside from being more environmentally sustainable to produce and the fact that it’s definitely more ethical in nature as it removes the widespread killing of animals for food, cultured meat also has the added benefit of being a more healthier option for the public as it can be tampered with during the production process to contain more omega-3 fatty acids as a fat source for example, a heart healthier fat which can actually cut one’s risk of dying of a heart attack. Considering that the CDC estimates that each year 48 million people get sick from foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die as a result, clean meat can be a viable solution to this issue as it does not involve the slaughtering of an animal and thus does not lead to cross-contamination which is often the culprit of such widespread illness. Despite this, according to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, “80% of Americans polled would not be willing to eat meat that was grown in a lab”. According to Josh Tetrick, CEO of stem cell meat company JUST, clean meat should be available for public consumption by the end of 2018 with a line of products set to be released at select restaurants in the United States and Asia. For those concerned about the potential health and safety risks of consuming lab grown sausages and chicken burgers the FDA has stated, “Given information we have at the time, it seems reasonable to think that cultured meat, if manufactured in accordance with appropriate safety standards and all relevant regulations, could be consumed safely”.
It seems that just like with any industry, technology needs to drive innovation forward. Much like the automobile replaced the horse and buggy, it might be a fair comparison to say that the animal livestock industry could possibly be seeing the beginning of its demise. Take into account the fact that large meat conglomerates are embracing the newest trends, with huge meat suppliers such as Cargill and Tyson Foods investing in clean meat technologies. Also, a recent story made news headlines when one of the largest dairy manufacturers on the East Coast in the US has ditched the conventional process of milking cows and switched over to manufacturing 100% plant based milks instead. Elmhurst Dairy in Queens, New York has apparently ceased it’s dairy operation after 90 years as a result of decreasing customer demand. According to CEO Henry Schwartz, “Pasteurized fluid milk has sort of gone out of style.”, “we are unable to continue to go on without ongoing losses.” As a result, Schwartz has transformed the huge, 100 year-old dairy plant into one that exclusively manufactures plant based milks made from nuts and seeds. After ditching the dairy altogether they’ve also decided to remove it from their company name which is now aptly called Elmhurst and is set to release a variety of nut based milks to the public later in the year. It seems that forward thinking, especially in business is the key to survival and this can provide a good example for other businesses to learn from.
While many are anticipating the changes coming in our food system like Eric Schmidt for example, Executive Chairman of Google who has predicted the “plant-based revolution” as he coined it, stating that the number one “game-changing” trend of the future would be the consumption of plant-based proteins instead of meat, there are still others with a huge scope of influence who are seemingly resistant to change.
The fight against fake meat has started as the US Cattlemen’s Association has recently lobbied before congress to restrict the use of the term “meat” by companies ushering in plant based and cultured animal products. Essentially, they are attempting to get a law passed that restricts the usage of the word meat to solely define the remnants of an animal carcass which has been slaughtered in the conventional method. According to Jessica Almy, policy director at the Good Food Institute, “like Tyson and Cargill, they could invest in the future. But rather than do that, they’re petitioning the USDA to police the use of certain terms on labels and skew the playing field in the cattlemen’s favor.” This is clearly a last ditch effort by the animal livestock industry to try and save what is seemingly a business model which is in its final throes. The future of clean meat and a cleaner environment is very bright indeed and as the old adage holds true in business, evolve or die.