A new industry trade association recently formed this September after the Good Food Institute’s Good Food Conference on UC Berkeley’s campus. The members of this fledgling organization were all representatives of the “cultured meat” industry—meat that is grown from animal cells in a lab (and therefore doesn’t require an animal from which to harvest said meat).
Their first order of business was to replace the term “clean meat”—which, it was argued, might imply that traditional, live animal-based meat was less clean by comparison. The association settled on the phrase “cell-based meat” to resolve the issue, though it’s certain there will be more hurdles on the road ahead for this association and eventual product.
Despite science fiction authors, futurists, scientists, and even world leaders having predicted the arrival and even takeover of cultured meat for years (Winston Churchill declared that it would make the current practice of animal-based meat production an “absurdity”), the viability of animal-free, clean meat right now is by no means a sure thing. And skeptics have cited a number of possible drawbacks.
However, the case for cultured meat is extremely compelling, and if it became a viable product, it would change everything; not just for the grocery retail industry or consumer packaged goods (CPG) brokers, but for human life around the planet.
So what are the potential benefits and drawbacks of cultured meat?
Benefits of Cultured Meat
The benefits of cultured meat have the potential to be massive. If it became a cost-effective practice, an influx of cell-based meat would have tremendous environmental benefits. For one, cultured meat takes less space to produce than traditional animal-based meat. This means numerous acres of land could be repurposed or used for reforestation, parks, and agriculture efforts to feed human beings rather than to feed and support livestock.
This repurposing would almost certainly improve the ecology of places not directly involved in ranching or meat production, as cattle farming alone is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas production. That’s more than the greenhouse gas emission pollution from all of the world’s transportation systems—cars, trucking, planes, ocean shipping, trains, etc.—combined.
Not to mention, the markets that cell-based meat could potentially open up could prove a huge boon for those earlier-mentioned CPG marketing agencies. A number of religious scholars have pointed out that the production of meat from non-animal sources might bypass doctrinal food restrictions, even for pork. And it’s not unfathomable that those who have given up or reduced their consumption of meat due to moral or ethical reasons might, with cell-based meat, reconsider.
What food broker agency wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to provide pork or beef to large, newly interested parties? Consider the opportunity for food brokers, food brands, and consumers alike when “guilt-free meat” hits the market.
Downsides of Cultured Meat
That’s not to say that there would be no drawbacks, however. Right now, cultured meat is still prohibitively expensive; a pound of cultured beef is estimated to cost around $2,500. Of course, as supporters note, and as is the case with other scientific advances, the more we learn and experiment, the less expensive and more efficient the production of cultured meat will become.
There’s also the more nebulous concern that people just might not be comfortable with the concept, and the reality, of cultured meat. It’s possible that the masses wouldn’t be comfortable eating meat not harvested from an animal, but instead a petri dish. Even if it were to become affordable, would consumers embrace it? And how would it taste?
Although it’s hard to imagine, considering the potentially massive rewards, it’s likely that there’s a sales and marketing agency in existence that would love the opportunity to change the way we think about—and purchase—meat.
About Impact Group
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