from the Newest-Entrée-at-Milliways?-Long-Pig-Bacon? dept.
'Soylent' Dawkins? Atheist mulls 'taboo against cannibalism' ending as lab-grown meat improves
What if human meat is grown? Could we overcome our taboo against cannibalism?"
- @RichardDawkins - 6:15 AM - 3 Mar 2018
"Lab-grown 'clean' meat could be on sale by end of 2018, says producer"
"'Soylent' Dawkins? Atheist mulls 'taboo against cannibalism' ending as lab-grown meat improves"
Plant-based meat products are bigger than ever, with the fast-food industry, grocery stores, and upscale restaurants coming on board. A recent Nielsen report found that plant-based meat alternative purchases went up 279.8 percent last week after Americans were instructed to stay home during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Impossible Foods, a company that develops plant-based meat products, says its mission is to someday replace the incumbent meat industry entirely, stating that, from a mission standpoint, a sale only has value if it comes at the expense of the sale of an animal-derived product.
But what if plant-based meat wasn't just a substitute for an already-existing marketplace, and instead, it started to make meat that has never existed?
On this week's Vergecast podcast, Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown talks to Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel about how this impossible meat could be a possibility in the future, even if it doesn't make sense for the company right now.
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Splashy headlines have long overshadowed inconvenient truths about biology and economics. Now, extensive new research suggests the industry may be on a billion-dollar crash course with reality.
[...] [In March], the Good Food Institute (GFI), a nonprofit that represents the alternative protein industry, published a techno-economic analysis (TEA) that projected the future costs of producing a kilogram of cell-cultured meat. Prepared independently for GFI by the research consulting firm CE Delft, and using proprietary data provided under NDA by 15 private companies, the document showed how addressing a series of technical and economic barriers could lower the production price from over $10,000 per pound today to about $2.50 per pound over the next nine years—an astonishing 4,000-fold reduction.
In the press push that followed, GFI claimed victory. "New studies show cultivated meat can have massive environmental benefits and be cost-competitive by 2030," it trumpeted, suggesting that a new era of cheap, accessible cultured protein is rapidly approaching. The finding is critical for GFI and its allies. If private, philanthropic, and public sector investors are going to put money into cell-cultured meat, costs need to come down quickly. Most of us have a limited appetite for 50-dollar lab-grown chicken nuggets.
Lab-grown meat is on its way, and the government is trying to figure out how to regulate it. This week, the US House of Representatives [pdf] released a draft spending bill that proposes that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulate lab-grown meat and figure out how it should be labeled — which is a contentious topic since Big Cattle doesn't want it to be called "meat." Regulation is important, and there's plenty more to learn, but the USDA shouldn't be the only one regulating. And when the product comes to market, yes, it should be called "meat."
Traditional meat, of course, comes from animals that are raised and slaughtered. Lab-grown meat (also called "in-vitro meat," "cultured meat," or "clean meat") is made from animal stem cells grown in a lab. But because the stem cells are typically fed with a serum derived from the blood of calf fetuses, the product uses animal products and isn't vegan. Still, the pitch for lab-grown meat is that it saves animals and also helps the environment because lab-grown meat doesn't take much land or energy to grow. Plus, lab-grown meat doesn't directly create methane emissions, while methane emissions from cows accounted for 16 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.
Because of the way that government agencies work, it hasn't even been clear who should regulate lab meat. The USDA traditionally regulates meat, while the US Food and Drug Administration regulates food safety and additives. The proposal that the USDA be in charge of regulation is in line with what the [pdf] National Cattlemen's Beef Association wanted, but some lab-meat advocates fear that USDA will be biased against them in favor of traditional meat. If the USDA will be regulating lab meat, it should at least collaborate with the FDA. There are no slaughterhouses for the USDA to inspect anyway, and the FDA has already been regulating food technology, like the genetically engineered salmon it approved. It makes the most sense for the two to work together.
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'Soylent' Dawkins? Atheist Mulls 'Taboo Against Cannibalism' Ending as Lab-Grown Meat Improves