From Chemistry to Food: Lab-Grown Meats

What is Lab-Grown Meat?

Lab-grown meat – also referred to as cultured, cultivated, synthetic, or cell-based meat – has been the talk of the food industry for a few years now. Creating meat in a lab setting requires an intricate process that involves extracting muscle stem cells and structuring them into desired cuts of meat, rather than using live animals to harvest their meat. Over recent years, technology has expanded since then to grow a wide range of proteins, including chicken, duck, steak, pork, and fish, from cells.

The Cultivated Meat Journey

The first lab-grown hamburger was served to a select group of London consumers in 2013. It took 3 months to make and cost $280,000. Due to the high cost of product, it caused large debates on whether or not this process was scalable. Now, production costs range between $4-$10, making lab-grown meat a more viable option. Lab grown meat is slowly but surely making its way to consumers. Singapore became the first country to allow the sale of lab-grown meat in retail, while Eat Just, a US-based company, recently launched the only lab-grown chicken cutlet in food service.

As Spoonshot reports, these technologies will have a large impact on food security in the coming years, a serious issue facing a multitude of countries. Eat Just’s chicken can be created in 14 days, 70% less time than it takes to raise a real chicken. This will allow more meat to be produced in less time, therefore creating the ability to feed those who are food insecure. Not only does lab-grown meat positively affect food security, it also is sustainable. According to Our World in Data, livestock and agriculture accounts for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. A study done by Oxford concluded that lab-grown meat uses up to 96% less water, 99% less land, and produces up to 96% less greenhouse gases. It is almost a no-brainer when it comes to introducing cultivated meat to the mainstream market.

What Do Consumers Think About Lab-Grown Meat?

There is no doubt that some consumers hear “lab-grown meat” and are at least somewhat skeptical. As the concept has become reality, it has sparked many conversations across social media. Yet, the mention of lab-grown meat was mostly positive. According to Spoonshot, 42.5% of social media conversations regarding lab-grown meat are associated with sustainability. Consumers are leaning into the sustainability trend more these days. Surveys have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for products that come from companies with sustainable promises. One social media comment stated, “I would pay more for a cruelty free product and one that doesn’t contribute to the environmental collapse.”

Eat Just launched a survey in 2020 to gain consumer insights on lab-grown meat, and the results were nothing but positive. They found that about 7 in 10 consumers would be willing to substitute cell-based chicken for animal-based meat. This technological food advancement definitely has the food industry on edge; not only are consumers interested, but they have indicated that they would purchase it. Cultivated meat seemed to be something of the future a few years ago, but the future is here; soon consumers will be seeing these products on their retail shelves.

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