You’ve experimented with lab-grown meat made from non-killing animals — is this the future of ethical eating? | food

IIt was a confronting moment for a vegetarian. First a pork ball and then slices of bacon, balanced into a sort of mini BLT, were offered for eating by two cheery waiting hosts. The meat even came from a pig named Dawn, a cute-looking pig called Dawn.

With some trepidation, I sliced ​​up the meatballs and ate them. Then I took a nibble of the bacon. It was my first taste of meat in 11 years, a disorienting experience made possible by the fact that Dawn, gambling on a field in upstate New York, was not to die for.

Instead, a batch of its cells has been grown in a lab to produce what’s known as “cultured meat,” a product touted as much better for the climate—in addition to deadly concerns for pigs and cows—and set to take off in the US.

said Eitan Fisher, founder of Mission Barns, a farm-meat processing company that invited The Guardian to a taste test at an upscale Manhattan hotel. The meatballs were tender, the bacon was crunchy, and even for vegetarians, they both had an undeniable meat quality.

“We got this sample from Dawn and she’s living free and happy,” said Fisher, whose company has identified a “donor” cow, chicken and duck for future farmed meat ranges. “This industry will definitely be transformative for our food system as people move towards consuming these types of products.”

Mission Barns is one of about 80 startups based in the San Francisco Bay Area now vying for a position after one of its companies, Upside Foods, became the first in the country. Grant approval It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November, a major step in allowing the sale of meat grown in the United States. On Monday, Upside He said It aims to start selling grown chicken in restaurants this year and in grocery stores by 2028.

Dinner takes video of a nugget meal made from lab-grown chicken meat during a media presentation in Singapore.
Dinner takes video of a nugget meal made from lab-grown chicken meat during a media presentation in Singapore. Photo: Nicholas Yu/AFP/Getty Images

It was more than 2 billion dollars invest In the sector since 2020 and many new projects do not wait for regulatory approval before building facilities. In December, I launched a company called Believer Meats Broken floor On a $123 million facility in North Carolina that it claims will be the world’s largest farm-meat plant, it’s set to produce 10,000 tons of the product once it’s operational.

So far grown meat — the nascent industry has settled on that name for lab-grown or cell-grown meat — has only begun selling in Singapore, where another Bay Area competitor, called Eat Just, has been given the green light to sell chicken breasts and tenders in 2020. But “the world is experiencing a food revolution,” as the Food and Drug Administration puts it, with the advent of cultured meat holding promise to cut emissions from the destructive meat industry to warm the planet and curtail voracious appetites, as well as spare livestock. The barbarism of agricultural factories.

“We know we really can’t meet the targets in the Paris climate agreement without addressing meat consumption and we think alternative proteins are the best way to address that,” said Elliot Schwartz, chief scientist for cultured meat at the Good Food Institute (GFI). ) who envisions a sort of “all of the above” approach where farmed meats and vegan offerings like Impossible Burgers and ditching pork chops and steaks help mitigate the impact of growpotentially catastrophic, global appetite for meat.

Responsible for raising and slaughtering livestock More than half of all greenhouse gases pollute the entire food sectorwhich in itself appreciates the contribution about a third of total global emissions. face off with The need to reach the “meat peak”cultured meat has been pushed forward as a solution that can cut emissions by about 17% for chicken and up to 92% for beef, the heaviest meat on the planet, GFI Research found.

Large tracts of land, most of them Forests were cleared for grazing and prone to outbreaks of zoonotic diseases diseasesMeanwhile, it could be freed if the meat was instead conceived in the 30,000-square-foot facility that Mission Barns operates in. The company’s research found that eating something that hasn’t been fed loads of antibiotics has a particular overall appeal.

“The production process is more efficient, you have a lot less feedstock for the same amount of calories and you have a great opportunity to restore ecosystems and slow biodiversity loss,” Schwartz said. “It offers a way to mitigate all of these tough and sticky global challenges.”

a Report Last week identified a rise in plant-based meat alternatives as one of three “super tipping points” that could trigger a cascade of decarbonization across the global economy, along with a boost in electric vehicles and green fertilizers. The report found that a 20% market share by 2035 would mean that between 400 and 800 million hectares of land would not be needed for livestock and fodder, equivalent to 7-15% of the world’s agricultural land today, the report estimated.

Pig Dawn.
Pig Dawn. Photo: Courtesy of Mission Barns

This is amazing the challenge Particularly blatant in the United States and the world largest producer of beef and chicken and the second-largest producer of pork, a country where meat-eating is so deeply ingrained by ingrained habit or lack of available and affordable alternatives that every American eats more than 260 pounds of meat each year, on average, a number that sound advance.

Enthusiastic , After briefMadness About the Impossible and Beyond Meat emphasized American desires for actual meat, rather than a vegetarian imitation. “In consumer research, a lot of people say, ‘I don’t eat that plant stuff, and I don’t care what it tastes like,'” Schwartz said.

Mission Barns, which hopes to get its own FDA approval soon and has a line of bacon, meatballs and sausages ready for distribution, is to “attract people who like to eat bacon and who like to eat meatballs,” according to Fisher, who was himself a vegan for over a decade. “Whether consciously or subconsciously, we crave and desire the flavor of animal meat. Vegan alternatives come close to emulating it.

“But for people who want that real flavor, I think giving them real ham is definitely the way to go. If we wanted something that tasted like bacon, it wouldn’t be enough to have a piece of tempeh and call it bacon.”

Since its launch in 2018, Mission Barns has embarked on a PR offensive as it develops its product, gathers information for regulators and raises funds (investors have put $24 million into a “pilot plant”). in 2021). The sprawling kitchen that would look home on set TV has hosted lawmakers and potential customers (Stiny Hoyer, a prominent congressional Democrat, was apparently a big fan of bacon) and a handful of outlets have agreed to stock their produce as soon as it’s ready. Certified for sale.

Many of the emerging cultured meat ventures have some sort of niche — companies that aim to sell lab-grown produce Salmon sushior Bluefin tuna or even Phua —and Mission Barns’ is one of efficiency, by increasing animal fat rather than laborious and expensive muscle and tissue. The fat, which has proteins and spices added to it, is created by growing cells in powerful bioreactors, which mimic the growth of an animal.

The use of these farmers, which are usually deployed by the biopharmaceutical industry to manufacture medicines, presents a problem for cultured meat because it usually creates small batches at a high cost, while the food industry requires the opposite of this equation. Made the first lab burger cost $330,000 in 2013, and while there have been improvements, price remains a barrier to quickly scaling production to rival the traditional meat industry in the short term. Eat Just contains a chicken nugget that was said to cost $50 in 2019 to makeanyway Their prices have now gone down.

The process can also be energy intensive, as growing meat would have to repeatedly heat and cool the animal, which would require running on a renewable heavy grid to avoid increased emissions. But practical hurdles aside, the advent of cultured meat raises broader questions. Will the audience see any reason to switch to this new body? Will this change the perception of what it means to eat ethically?

People are sitting in a tasting room.
Mission Barns Tasting Room. Photo: Courtesy of Mission Barns

The target audience for cultured meat might be those who eat meat at least once a day, to help them avoid a more environmentally friendly option without giving up meat entirely, but the emergence of meat from the lab poses philosophical questions for vegans.

If you don’t eat meat because of animal welfare or climate reasons, what happens when those issues are stripped from the food? How much are you a vegetarian about that kind of values, other than eating the meat itself? I thought about this when I was dealing with a kind of sweaty, greasy feeling in a mouth that is not used to eating meat. Others are less conflicting.

“I fully plan on eating this stuff when it’s more available in the States,” said Schwartz, who has been vegan for the past four years. “People don’t give up meat because it tastes bad, it’s other motivations. I think we’re going to need a new word, like farming, or something.”

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