The age of Soylent Green is here! No Flies on us just in the meat!
Purveyors of this lab grown meat using immortal cell technology say this meat saves animal lives but how will it affect humans?
Instead of urging people to grow their own food and raise your own livestock companies like Upside Foods and Good Meat, both based in the Bay Area, are the first companies approved by the U.S. to sell meat grown from animal cells. A state long known for pushing the envelope, California is once again at the center of a new technological trend: lab-grown meat. Many want to know if this is the first step of moving toward outlawing growing and raising your own food to have control over the nations food supply. Yet some vegans happily eat cultivated meat because it's made without the mass animal slaughter of traditional meat. Still, the true power of cultivated meat lies in its potential to reach omnivores, consumers who do eat animal-based meat and are looking for a way to minimize the impact of what they eat.
Can we trust this food and really know what is in lab grown foods? Can we trust people like Bill and Melinda Gates to grow our food, whether on farms or in the laboratory? They now own the soil where the potatoes in McDonald’s french fries grow, the carrots from the world’s largest producer and the onions that Americans sauté every night for dinner. But they’re far better known for their work in tech and in trying to save the climate.
Bill and Melinda Gates, who recently announced they’re getting divorced and are dividing their assets, are deeply invested in American agriculture. The billionaire couple, in less than a decade, have accumulated more than 269,000 acres of farmland across 18 states, more than the entire acreage of New York City. The farmland was purchased through a constellation of companies that all link back to the couple’s investment group, Cascade Investments, based in Kirkland, Washington. This is concerning to many of us who have heard Bill Gates on many occasions speak of lowering the birthrates of non white countries by any means necessary including the use of vaccines and sterilization. Could the next step be with food products made in the lab?
In a recent article by Bill Gates he had this to say. "I don’t think I can be easily fooled. But that’s just what happened when I was asked to taste a chicken taco and tell whether the meat inside was real or fake. The meat certainly had the look and the smell of chicken. I took a bite and it had the taste and texture of real chicken, too. But I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t an ounce of real chicken it. The “meat” was made entirely of plants. And yet, I couldn’t tell the difference" and therein lies the problem a lack of transparency people have the right to know what they are consuming with no cryptic language or guesswork involved.
Bill Gates stated "What I was experiencing was more than a clever meat substitute. It was a taste of the future of food." By 2050, the world’s population will grow to more than 9 billion and our appetite for meat will grow along with it. The demand for meat will have doubled between 2000 and 2050. There is no doubt that the cellular agriculture could be revolutionary for the food sector, but only if it overcomes immense scalability, cost and biological challenges. Cultivated meat — meat grown in a lab — has got investors, entrepreneurs, meat eaters, plant eaters and even some climate advocates very excited. But no one wants to be the food industries test dummy. According to Crunchbase, cellular agriculture (another name for lab-grown meat) garnered $1.2 billion from investors, and 2021 was on track for a similar amount.
At the end of last year, Future Meat raised $347 million from big food players Tyson and Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM). Just Eats, the Singapore-based company that actually has a cultivated chicken product on the market, raised $267 million in 2021. The company is working to open a large-scale cultivated meat plant in Qatar where ironically most of the population are forbidden to eat non halal meaning pure or kosher foods. Also last November 2022, Upside, the Berkeley, California-based cultivated meat producer, opened its $50 million EPIC (Engineering, Production and Innovation Center) facility in the East Bay across from San Francisco.
Proponents of cultivated meat are quick to point to places where prices have fallen. Especially the cost of "Media" a slurry of nutrients needed for the cells to grow. According to Zak Weston, supply chain manager at the Good Food Institute, the costs of that input has come down "significantly" this year. And a plant-based option (media previously came from fetal bovine serum which costs about $1,684.00 for 1 liter if it is United States origin) is on the market. According to an industry survey by GFI, most cultivated meat companies expect to be paying below $10 per litter by 2023 because the source will be different. Many companies are developing their own media including Mosa Meat which reported an 80x cost reduction in media for its in-house developed growth media.
"Five years ago, you had to get growth factor from bovine serum, and it was an incredibly expensive part of the equation," said Rob Harris, an investor advisor at CULT food science, a Canadian investment group focusing on cultivated meat companies. "Today I can literally drive three hours north of me to Edmonton, and I can buy Future Fields’ growth factor that’s derived from fruit flies. That didn’t exist before. Those people who are saying that it can’t be done, well, you didn’t have that tool at your disposal when you were doing it."
Another place the sector is looking to potentially cut costs is on measures for sterility. According to Weston, a higher level of production sterility is expected and required of biopharmaceutical facilities than for traditional animal slaughter. (The processes for biopharma, the sector that synthesizes drugs from biological sources, are often compared to those for cultured food.) "Biopharma specifically for pharmaceutical applications is wildly overengineered for food purposes," he said.