SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

What is clean meat and will it replace traditional agriculture?

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Southern fried chicken, duck a l’orange and meatballs are dishes many of us have indulged in over the course of our time.

Thoughts of these may even be making you hungry, but the food from Memphis Meats wasn’t produced by raising and slaughtering animals. They say it was produced by using animal cells. It’s called clean meat.

“Essentially, what you do is take a small sample of cells from a cow, chicken, or pig and you’re able to grow these outside of the animal into a full-formed chicken nugget or hamburger,” said The Good Food Institute‘s Senior Communications Specialist Emily Byrd.

Byrd says her organization supports scientists, entrepreneurs and startups who are trying to replace factory farming products.

“These animals are frequently administered regular doses of antibiotics. They grow up in filthy and crowded barns. Clean meat is an entirely different way to imagine this production system,” said Byrd.

She says clean meat is better for public health. Right now, companies in the space are working to get prices down for the consumer market.
The timeline varies based on the company, but she says it’s a range of five to 10 years.

“We’re looking at probably a high-value entry point, something along $10 a burger. But really the goal of this technology is to produce something that is affordable and accessible for everyone. If you look at the two biggest questions in food right now, it’s ‘How are we going to feed 9.7 billion people by 2050?’ and ‘What are we going to do about climate change and cellular agriculture?” Specifically, clean meat are the answers to both of these questions,” continued Byrd.

But how do animal right groups feel about this cutting edge technology? Doris Lin of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey explains.

“Up until recently, these cell cultures and tissue cultures to make lab grown meat were grown with bovine fetal serum from the fetus of a cow, and it could not be considered vegan even though it was grown in a laboratory and a live animal was not slaughtered for it. It was still using animal products,” she said.

But at this point, Lin says companies are secretive about the technology, so she’s hoping once it does hit the market, it will be a vegan-friendly innovation.

“It seems to be moving in the direction of truly vegan clean meat and we’re glad to see that,” continued Lin.

What is clear is that even traditional, big meat companies are starting to invest in the process, which is a sign of the big shift to come in the industry.

“They’re seeing it as something that’s better for public and planetary health, as well as profits. You can see that in groups like Cargill investing in clean meat company Memphis Meat. That’s something that gets us extremely excited about, you know deep, fundamental change,” said Byrd.