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Lab-Grown Meat is Ready to Serve

July 29, 2021

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It looks like in the not-too-distant future that juicy hamburger or crispy chicken you savor will come from a lab. Really! Lab-grown chicken and other lab-made meats are poised to go mainstream. Let’s look at this “growing meat” trend.

It falls under different names: lab-grown, cultivated, cultured, and cell-based meat. Branding gurus are marketing it as "clean meat." The USDA uses the technical term "animal cell culture technology." However you label it, man-made meat is steadily moving from laboratories to factories, out of the testing stages, and onto people's plates. Albeit just a few plates at the moment. But great strides in lab-grown meat have been made since we first met the very first lab-grown hamburgers in 2013.

How is Lab-Grown Meat Made?

Lab-grown meat starts with cells that are taken from live animals, incubated, and usually fed nutrients in a liquid bath of amino acids, sugars, and salts. That leads to cell multiplication and the eventual development of muscle tissue. These lab-grown tissues are pretty much the same as those found on live animals, basically, the meat we eat.

People Are Ready to Dig In

Recent research from Arizona State University suggests that the public will embrace lab meat. A study found that a whopping 80% of respondents in the United States and the United Kingdom are ready to eat meat that was created in a factory instead of eating animals. That number is even higher with Generation Z (88%) and Millennials (85%).

This wide-open attitude is not just an issue of animal rights; man-made meat has less of a negative impact on the environment, requiring less land, less water, and not resulting in the major issue of methane gas released by livestock. Cultured meat may also be healthier for you, made without the antibiotics that are often found in traditional animal products, which could prove harmful to human health.

It’s Already Starting in Singapore

Right now if you want to savor some chicken made from lab-grown meat you'll have to head to Singapore, which approved the sale of cultured chicken nuggets from the US company Eat Just last December. But that will change, with forecasters predicting that we'll see "peak meat" in the European and North American markets by 2025. Further, we could see the balance tip by 2040, with more consumption of lab-grown meat than from slaughtered animals in that year.

England could be seeing lab-grown sausages hit supermarket shelves sooner than that. The UK start-up Ivy Farm Technologies has plans to have what they're calling "guilt-free sausage" on sale in markets and for restaurants by 2023. They've also got cultivated hamburgers and meatballs planned. Ivy Farm forecasts that their lab-meat products will cost about 25% more than traditional meat.

The Market is Responding

If investors are any indication, we're going to see an explosion of lab-grown meat in the near future. In 2020 we saw a staggering growth rate of investment in lab-grown meat companies, jumping sixfold, and the founding of dozens of new companies. And they're not just developing beef and chicken; manmade lobster, tuna, and even kangaroos are in the works, with companies now shifting out of the lab phase and into factories that can mass-produce the foods.

Eat Just recently raised $170 in lab-meat funding, on the heels of a $200 million fundraising round this past March. The company is currently valued at over $1 billion. That’s a pretty strong sign that investors are confident they’re going to get the approval for sales in the U.S., currently pending with the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Eat Just says they’re ready to roll with production as soon as they get the green light from the feds.

And Eat Just is just one such company, with over 70 similar outfits around the world that are poised to put lab-grown meat into production when government regulations allow. Forecasters predict that they'll have up to one-third of the global meat market by the year 2040.

People Won't Be the Only Consumers

It’s a safe bet that our pets will be eating lab-grown meat in the future too! Cats and dogs eat massive amounts of meat in the United States each year. And unlike humans who can go vegetarian, cats need meat in their diets to stay healthy. The move to lab meat could very well lead to better food for pets. For example, the company Because Animals is currently working on cultured mice meat for cats, and lab-grown rabbit meat for dogs, to more closely resemble how their diets have been in the wilds for centuries.

There will come a time, and not long from now, when man-made meat is an everyday thing. And don’t worry, laboratory meat promises to be just as tasty as the meaty delights we enjoy right now.

Written by William McCleary for Knockaround.

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