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Lab meat (also known as cultured or bio meat) has made mainstream media headlines, with the BBC asking whether it is the ‘future’ of food.
The broadcaster posted a short video outlining what lab meat is – and why it could be an essential development.
Clean meat – known as lab, bio, or cultured meat – is built using animal cells. Some scientists also use foetal blood plasma harvested from unborn calves (though some brands say they have developed technology to avoid this).
Clean meat is therefore not vegan, though some vegans choose to support the concept, as it has the potential to reduce the number of animals slaughtered for food.
According to the film: “The meat we eat and the way we farm it is being scrutinised more than ever, from greenhouse gas emissions and overfishing to animal welfare concerns. So some companies are looking at alternatives.”
The film references Silicon Valley companies Memphis Meats and Hampton Creek. The first has created cultured chicken and a meatball – but the prohibitive cost ($18,000 per pound) means there is some work to do before it goes mainstream.
Hampton Creek recently revealed it had been working on growing cultured meat – and intends to bring it to market next year.
Mike Seldon is Co-founder of San Francisco start-up Fishless Foods, which is working on creating cultured fish. He claims a single cell can theoretically create a whole ton of fish, making the mission an important one.
Seldon says: “Fish demand is rising but the production can’t go any higher – 52 per cent of all fisheries are fully exploited, 25 per cent above that are in collapse, they are over-exploited.
“So we only have 23 per cent of the world’s fisheries that we can use to increase production. So if we still want to eat fish at the rate we are eating it, we have to do this.”
The big issues
But according to Seddon there is a major stumbling block.
“When I walk into a room at any sort of conference I can see in people’s eyes, ‘oh this is the next big evil corporation that’s going to put things in my food that I don’t understand’,” he says.
“And so one of my main missions is to talk to people and to really make them understand that we are people, we are environmentalists, we are conservationists and we are on the same team.”
The other big problem the Fishless Foods team is working to overcome is the use of calf foetus blood in stem cell growth – the duo wants to create an alternative which is both animal-free and more cost effective.