Cell-cultured meat is an alluring concept. Efficiently-grown meat—not a plant-based protein—that’s slaughter-free, antibiotic-free, and better for the environment. It sounds almost too good to be true, but these are the promises touted by leaders in the cultured meat space. And with a problematic agriculture system and rising global food insecurity—cell-cultured meat innovation seems like it’s coming right on time.
Two years ago JUST joined the list of companies in Silicon Valley, the UK, Israel, the Netherlands, China, Japan, and Singapore that are developing cell-cultured meat technology. It has successfully produced a ground chicken product—a nugget—and has its eyes set on loftier goals like luxe wagyu beef.
“Eventually we see a world where the majority of meat made doesn’t require killing a single animal,” says JUST CEO Josh Tetrick, “It doesn’t require all that land [and] doesn’t require all that water.”
Despite JUST and other companies’ edible ground meat products, there aren’t cell-cultured meat products available for purchase yet. What’s the hold up?
“Regulation, absolutely,” says Chase Purdy, Quartz reporter and author of a coming book about cell-cultured meat. “The technology is ready—the science has been there for a while.” he says. “It’s really all about governments around the world figuring out how to regulate these products.”
Of course, there are those who remain cautious of clearing a path to market for a product with little scientific evidence to support it available for public review.
“Until life cycle assessments can be conducted on a commercial scale, until these products have been put forward for folks like the American Science Association to get a hold of—there’s a lot a lot of questions left unanswered,” says Danielle Beck, Director of Government Affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which lobbies for the interests of the agricultural industry.
For now the world is watching which country invests enough in creating a regulatory framework, and therefore a path to market, first. They’ll be the first to start providing a curious public with answers to whether or not this product could be the silver bullet that keeps the world fed in coming years.
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