Advocates look to labs for replacements for farm-raised meats

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Capital News Service 

LANSING — The food industry may be getting closer to the introduction of lab-grown, or cultured, meats.

Cultured meat is created in a lab by feeding nutrients to animal cells taken from poultry or livestock. Advocates see it as one possible solution to the environmental impacts of raising animals for meat.

“I suspect that if the success of other plant-based meat alternatives such as the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat are any indication, cultured meat would likely be readily adopted here as well,” said Sheril Kirshenbaum, a science communicator and host of Our Table. 

Her Michigan State University program brings together stakeholders in the East Lansing area to talk about where food comes from and how it impacts health and the environment.

Americans eat a lot of meat – 214 pounds per person per year, Kirshenbaum said – and a 2019 MSU Food Literature and Engagement poll showed that many Americans aren’t yet comfortable with the idea of eating meat from a lab.

Of those who said they would try cell-cultured meats, only 25% were over age 40.

Few Americans have had the opportunity to try cultured meat since it’s not approved for public consumption in the United States. 

Singapore was the first government to allow cultured meat to be sold to the public in December 2020. The meat was a product of Eat Just Inc. No other country has yet approved cultured meat for public sale.

Kirshenbaum said she had the opportunity to eat cell-cultured seafood while working on Capitol Hill and is willing to try cultured meat in the future.

“Meat isn’t going anywhere, so I don’t see cultured meat as a threat to the agricultural industry,” she said.

“I suspect that it will appeal to consumers interested in conserving water and energy and providing fewer greenhouse gas emissions, as well as those concerned about animal welfare or antibiotics and hormones,” she said.

One supportive consumer is Ireland Ingram, a master’s student studying health and risk communication at MSU.

“For me, being vegetarian is truly about the ethical and moral implications the meat industry poses on animal welfare,” Ingram said. 

“From that standpoint, I would support cultured meat being served since it would translate to less animals being killed for the purpose of consumption,” she said.

“I also believe that this would be a much more sustainable approach to providing meat since it takes almost 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef,” she said.

Ingram said that although she supports cell-cultured meat as an alternative to farmed livestock, she doesn’t think she would eat it

“I know it is unrealistic to ask everyone to be vegetarian to save the planet, but cultured meat could be a new sustainable approach that also improves animal welfare,” Ingram said.

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