Vyacheslav Prokofyev / Contributor
In what is being seen as landmark news for the food industry, meat grown in a laboratory has been approved for sale for the first time ever.
The “chicken” bites are produced by an American company called Eat Just, and have been approved for use by Singapore’s Food Agency. When the product goes on sale, it will be the first time lab-grown meat will have been sold to the public. Along with Eat Just, a number of companies around the world are developing lab-grown meat, meaning it could soon be readily available.
Josh Tetrick, the CEO of Eat Just, said: “I think the approval is one of the most significant milestones in the food industry in the last handful of decades. It’s an open door, and it’s up to us and other companies to take that opportunity. My hope is this leads to a world in the next handful of years where the majority of meat doesn’t require killing a single animal or tearing down a single tree.”
The chicken bites might – arguably? maybe? – be vegetarian-friendly, but as it stands, vegans will have to wait. They are made from something called “foetal bovine serum”, which is extracted from foetal blood. Sounds delicious! However, Eat Just hope that a plant-based serum could be used in future production.
As well as the ethical problem of killing animals, there are all sorts of reasons for people to give up or reduce their meat consumption – for a start, it’s a huge contributing factor to climate change. Some scientists say that cutting meat out of your diet is the single best thing you can do, on an individual level, to combat global warming.
Because lab-grown meat is currently being produced at a small scale, it creates a relatively high amount of emissions. But if it became more popular, and could be scaled up, manufacturers argue that it could become considerably more environmentally friendly than current meat production methods, producing less waste and fewer carbon emissions.
Its proponents argue that this represents the best way to wean people off a meat diet, but there’s still some doubt over whether consumers will embrace it. “Lab-grown meat” doesn’t, on the face of it, sound particularly appetising. In popular culture, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian sci-fi trilogy Oryx and Crake portrays this kind of “no brain, no pain” meat production as something deeply creepy.
Point being: there’s likely to be some resistance – something Tetric seems well aware of. “Is it different? For sure,” he said. “Our hope is, through transparent communication with consumers, what this is and how it compares to conventional meat, we’re able to win. But it’s not a guarantee.”