Meat With­out An­i­mals

A world with­out slaugh­ter­houses is closer than you think

Newsweek International - - CONTENTS - Jes­sica Almy is di­rec­tor of pol­icy at the Good Food In­sti­tute, a non­profit fo­cused on find­ing plant-based al­ter­na­tives to an­i­mal prod­ucts.

“If we can grow meat with­out the an­i­mal, why wouldn’t we?” This ques­tion wasn’t from a science fic­tion writer or the head of the Hu­mane So­ci­ety of the United States. Rather, this came from Tom Hayes to­ward the end of his ten­ure as the CEO of Tyson Foods, the largest pro­ducer of meat in the U.S.

Why would the CEO of Tyson, whose brand has be­come syn­ony­mous with chicken, want to re­move the an­i­mal from pro­duc­tion? In part be­cause meat pro­duc­tion will be more ef­fi­cient that way; by grow­ing meat with­out bones, feathers or hair, we can get more of it with the same re­sources. United Na­tions sci­en­tists say that rais­ing and killing an­i­mals for food is “one of the ma­jor causes of the world’s most press­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems, in­clud­ing global warm­ing, land degra­da­tion, air and water pol­lu­tion, and loss of bio­di­ver­sity.”`

In 2017, an an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy think tank found that a ma­jor­ity of peo­ple were un­com­fort­able with how an­i­mals are used in our cur­rent food sys­tem and that nearly half want to ban slaugh­ter­houses. Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity got sim­i­lar re­sults with a fol­low-up sur­vey. Cou­ple that with the fact that there are sim­ply not enough re­sources to scale up cur­rent meat pro­duc­tion to feed the world.

For­tu­nately, we are ap­proach­ing the day when Hayes’s slaugh­ter-free meat is a re­al­ity. Com­pa­nies around the world are rapidly bring­ing down the cost of an­i­mal-free meat, which is grown di­rectly in a fa­cil­ity sim­i­lar to a brew­ery rather than as part of an an­i­mal. This “cell-based” prod­uct (aka “clean meat”) is ex­actly like what every­one is used to, right down to the DNA. Fur­ther­more, there is no fe­cal con­tam­i­na­tion, and it does not re­quire the chronic use of an­tibi­otics.

With all these ben­e­fits, the ques­tion “Why wouldn’t we?” be­comes even more dif­fi­cult to an­swer. Although there are tech­ni­cal chal­lenges to scal­ing up pro­duc­tion to be cost com­pet­i­tive with con­ven­tional meat, no sci­en­tific break­throughs are nec­es­sary to bring it to our plates.

The main ques­tion now is which coun­try will lead the way. The gov­ern­ments of Ja­pan, the Nether­lands and Is­rael have al­ready in­vested in re­search and star­tups. Given the mag­ni­tude of the global prob­lems clean meat can help ad­dress, those ef­forts abroad de­serve to be ap­plauded. But we should also care about that suc­cess here in the U.S.; ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Amer­i­cans ate a record amount of meat in 2018—over 222 pounds per per­son.

There are signs the gov­ern­ment wants to be at the fore­front of clean meat de­vel­op­ment. In a re­port to the White House, the Na­tional Academy of Sciences sin­gled it out as a tech­nol­ogy with par­tic­u­larly high growth po­ten­tial. Sec­re­tary of Agri­cul­ture Sonny Per­due has noted the im­por­tance of cell-based meat in keep­ing the U.S. a prom­i­nent meat ex­porter. “Shouldn’t we...be about how we can grow and feed peo­ple more ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively?” he asked. “These tech­niques need to be em­braced.”

And then, just a few weeks ago, the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture for­mally an­nounced their plan for joint over­sight of clean meat pro­duc­tion within their cur­rent reg­u­la­tory frame­works. The an­nounce­ment gives lead­ing clean com­pa­nies, like Mem­phis Meats and Just, a clear sig­nal that they will have a straight­for­ward and fair path to mar­ket in the U.S.

If we lis­ten to Hayes and Per­due, we will rec­og­nize that we should not only em­brace meat with­out the an­i­mal but do every­thing pos­si­ble to bring an­i­mal-free meat to the world.

“No sci­en­tific break­throughs are nec­es­sary to bring meat with­out the an­i­mal to our plates.”

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