The coming obsolescence of meat from animal bodies


EXCERPT: . . . Animal meat is a habit that many young Americans are ready to abandon. A quarter of 25-to-34-year-old Americans now say they are vegans or vegetarians, prompting The Economist to proclaim 2019 “the year of the vegan.” Burger King this month introduced a Whopper made with a plant-based Impossible patty. True, chicken grown in a bioreactor like Just’s is still animal, not vegetable; but without the factory-farming component, some vegetarians and vegans might be inclined to love their chickens and eat them too.

I am the ideal customer for this, because I enjoy meat-like flavors but don’t appreciate the more carnal elements of meat.[...] I would like a protein-rich substance that reminds me of my childhood and injects a robust, savory essence into my salad. I do not, however, care if that substance was ever technically alive. Because frankly, life for many mass-bred animals is no life at all.

[...] Just Foods’s process, meanwhile, is much more clinical. The company takes live cells from biopsies that don’t require the death of the chicken. It then isolates the cells that are most likely to grow, and gently nurtures them in tank-like bioreactors in a soup of proteins, sugar, and vitamins.

Across the bay from Just, in Emeryville, California, Finless Foods is attempting to perform this same procedure on fish. It’s not as far along as Just: Finless Foods has only 11 employees, to Just’s 120. Its office looks even less like a traditional workplace, with mismatched desks that early employees picked up from a used-furniture store. Its largest bioreactor only holds a liter of fish meat, while Just expects that in the “near term,” its bioreactors will have a capacity of hundreds to thousands of liters.

Finless Foods’ Michael Selden rattled off an assortment of environmental and social injustices that motivate the need for cultured meat, from microplastics in our oceans, to greenhouse gases from shipping, to what he calls “environmental imperialism”: “The way that we get our food is very much just sort of like, we take what we want,” he told me. “If you live in San Francisco and you eat bluefin tuna, that bluefin tuna almost definitely comes from the Philippines. And we basically have fishing fleets in the Philippines that are, like, destroying local ecosystems to feed us.”

Whether Americans are sufficiently distraught over the state of Filipino ecosystems to replace a dinnertime staple remains to be seen. But for now, these companies have bigger challenges to getting to market. For Finless Foods, a major hurdle is texture. [...] Similarly, when I asked Josh Tetrick when his [chicken] nuggets would actually be on sale, he glanced at Andrew Noyes, Just’s PR guy. “I know Andrew loves when I give timelines,” he said coyly. “I drive him crazy. It’s more likely than not … between now and the end of the year that we’re selling outside of the United States.”

Before that happens, the bioreactors need to get larger, and there have to be many, many more of them, without sacrificing quality. Tetrick estimated that there would need to be 25 to 100 culturing facilities just to fulfill America’s demand for meat. These companies are also searching for a way to reduce the cost of the “media”—the vitamin slush the cells incubate in—potentially by reusing it. Finally, the Just employees told me, they need the U.S. government to figure out a way to regulate the product, so people can rest assured that it’s not going to make them ill.

Al Almanza, the former acting deputy undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, agrees that there aren’t enough data yet for food inspectors to know what’s normal or abnormal—and thus potentially unsafe—in a cultured-chicken plant. But he also says that regulators would probably expedite approval for Just if the company reached a scale at which it could sell its cultured meat, which it hasn’t yet. (The USDA did not return a request for comment.) And while Just argues that its process is better, from a food-safety standpoint, than animal slaughter, we only have the company’s word to go on at this point. (MORE - details)
I don't care how old fashioned meat-eating becomes. My craving for meat is a 6 million year old habit I'm not about to break. Greasy pork, juicy steak, deep fried seafood, and grilled chicken. It's the stuff of life for me.
If the shoe was on the other foot my meal would be eating me. Try swimming in shark infested water for the experience. Meanwhile I’m a microbe’s dinner plate

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