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What’s next for lab-grown meat?

4 min read
AUTHOR: Ross Carver-Carter
A piece of chicken on a fork labelled

Cultivated meat pioneers: do you want the good news, or the bad news first?

The good news: In a historic move this July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the sale of two cultivated meat products to American consumers. The decision makes the U.S. just the second country after Singapore to approve the sale of lab-grown meat products.

The bad news: The ruling came close on the heels of a controversial bill by the Italian government earlier this year. Criticised as neophobic by many, it proposes a ban on the production and commercialisation of cultivated meat products in the country.

So, as Italy closes its doors to the cultured meat market and America opens theirs, the Food Matters Live podcast explores the implications of the rulings and discusses the future of cultured meat in light of them.

Italy’s cultivated meat ban – permanent or just ciao for now?

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In 2022, Italy elected a centre-right coalition government, headed by the populist Brothers of Italy’s leader Giorgia Meloni.

Citing the protection of Italian agri-food heritage, the government has proposed a bill banning Italian industry from producing food or feed “from cell cultures or tissues derived from vertebrate animals”.

It’s part of a series of proposed bills against sustainable food innovations, including the use of insect-derived flour in pasta or pizza making. At a time when we need to be embracing innovative solutions to pressing climate challenges, the government seems set on resisting green tech.

Dubbed an “anti-scientific crusade against progress”, there are fears the government’s neophobic policies will trigger a brain drain in the country, not to mention the fact it could hinder sustainable reform.

In this episode, we welcome Sharon Cittone, Founder and CEO of Edible Planet Adventures and Robert Jones, Chair of Cellular Agriculture Europe & VP Public Affairs at Mosa Meat. Tapping into their expertise, we discuss whether cultured meat is really a threat to Italian culture and if it has a future in Italy.

Cultivated meat: World watches after American approval

The U.S. continent with the American flag and red meat to symbolise U.S. approval of cultured meat

In June this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the sale of lab-grown meat, allowing two Californian start-ups to offer “cultivated chicken” products to consumers.

With the U.S. being such a huge market, plenty of people will be watching to see what impact the decision has on the wider industry. But cultured meat remains a controversial topic, as evidenced by Italy’s proposed ban. In media interviews, the agricultural minister has disparagingly labeled lab-grown meat an “agglomeration of cells”, saying it would be “suicide” for Italy to adopt them.

So, just how much of an impact will U.S. approval have on the future of cultivated meat? Will it accelerate the approval of these products elsewhere, or illustrate scaling problems and have the opposite effect? And is cultured meat even economically viable?

Joining us to discuss these questions are Mathilde Alexandre, Corporate and Institutional Engagement Manager at ProVeg, Ricardo San Martin, Director and Co-founder at the Alt:Meat Lab, University of California Berkeley and Stefano Lattanzi, CEO at Brunocell.

Inspiring the next generation of alt protein scientists

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Agriculture now represents the number one cause of deforestation, freshwater pollution and biodiversity loss, and second to energy, is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. Animal agriculture is a particularly big culprit behind climate challenges, with livestock requiring large swathes of land and emitting planet-warming gases such as methane.

The alternative protein sector, with its lab-grown meat, plant-based products, and precision fermentation, offers a way to sate our protein needs without reaping so much environmental damage. But, the challenge remains huge and there are concerns we do not have enough scientists or alternative protein solutions to meet future demand.

Enter The Good Food Institute’s Alt Protein Project, a programme that finds and trains students in alt-protein research at key research universities around the world. The idea is to transform universities into engines for alternative protein research and education.

Could such a project be just the ticket to catapult alternative protein into the promised land? We sat down with Amy Huang, University Innovation Manager at The Good Food Institute, to discuss the aims of the Alt Protein Project and explore how students can get involved.

Hosted by Seyi Rhodes and Samira Ahmed with guests including Sir Jonathon Porritt and Patrick Holden CBE, the Sustainable Food Forum will highlight the environmental cost of food production and spotlight bold solutions for a sustainable food future. Join the discussion and be a part of the change.