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Clean meat: Will consumers eat it?Clean meat: Will consumers eat it?

The Good Food Institute (GFI), a non-profit that works to bolster the success of animal product alternatives, has come up with the term clean meat, saying that cultured meat implies meat grown on petri dishes versus coming from a live animal.

Dr. Richard Raymond 1

February 15, 2017

4 Min Read
Clean meat: Will consumers eat it?

I think that is a very good question, and could be asked in a couple of other ways.

Will consumers eat cultured meat? Will consumers eat lab-grown meat?

Memphis Meats has made the claim that they will have “clean meat” products in grocery stores by 2021 and the cost will be comparable to animal-based meat.

The product will be made from cell lines much like using human stem cells to regenerate tissues.

The Good Food Institute (GFI), a non-profit that works to bolster the success of animal product alternatives, came up with the term clean meat, saying that cultured meat implies meat grown on petri dishes versus coming from a live animal.

Of course they admit that at first the cell lines will be grown on a petri dish in a laboratory (think Frankenstein) but that the process will then move into giant meat fermenters that will look “like a brewery or a greenhouse.”

They are also claiming that “clean meat” better describes the product as it will have no bacteria or antibiotic residues found (implying that conventional meat is dirty and loaded with antibiotics).

In fact the GFI says “that this meat is cleaner than the meat from slaughtered animals, both in terms of basic sanitation and environmental friendliness.”

A graph on GFI’s web page says it is from Memphis Meats and compares bacterial growth and antibiotic residues found on conventional, organic and clean meat. (Graph 1 shows the  same information in a little different format.)

I am still trying to decide how a petri dish can illustrate antibiotic residues found? Especially since all meat, no matter the production method, is routinely tested for antibiotic residues and discarded if present.

Plus no animal needs to be slaughtered to get this meat, also implying that slaughter is not clean, but messy, and we know that to be true.

What I do not take to be true are the claims of antibiotic residues being omnipresent in conventional meats, and that clean meat will be pathogen free.

True, there should not be any E. coli or Salmonella in this product, but surely the scientists have heard about L monocytogenes, Staph endotoxins, etc.

I really think the terminology of “clean meat” is rather like a company claiming their poultry was raised without hormones when hormones in poultry have never been allowed.

If Memphis Meats has a “clean meat,” then it is implied that all the rest must be dirty.

Hey, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. and National Pork Producers Council, get your boxing gloves on, this could be huge.

I kind of fell into this “cellular agriculture” issue when a reporter called me and asked who would regulate this product, the Food & Drug Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture?

Excellent question and I do not have the answer for it. But since the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) says all meat animals must be observed in motion and at rest before entering the slaughter facility, I can’t imagine how they can comply with that century old law.

The FMIA was originally passed to guarantee sick animals and rancid meats would not enter the food supply.

As our herds have become more disease free, the emphasis has changed considerably to trying to keep pathogens like enteric bacteria and the prions that cause BSE out of the food supply.

Neither would apply here, so my guess is that FDA gets the nod.

The reporter asked me if I would eat it and I said probably not, I like a good prime ribeye and crispy bacon too much.

She assured me that molecule for molecule, it would be exactly like a steak or bacon strip and I could not tell the difference.

I still said probably not.

She went on as if she was a marketer for Memphis Meats and said the product would consume no grass, corn or water and would produce no manure to run off into our streams and rivers.

She begged me to consider the environment and the effort to feed a hungry world with and alternative product.

I asked her if she had ever heard of recombinant bovine somatropin (rBST).

The answer was no.

 I told her that molecule for molecule, rBST was almost exactly what a dairy cow produces on her own but Americans won’t drink milk from cows supplemented with it.

I told her that a cow could produce 14% more milk per cycle, keeping costs down as dairy farmers try to more efficiently feed a hungry world, but the consumers buying the milk won’t pay for it if it came from a supplemented cow.

I advised her that the cow produces less methane gas, consumes less grass, corn and water to be a more efficient producer, but the consuming public just does not care nor buy those arguments.

One final straw for the consumer to chew on may be that the cell lines need to be bathed in a nutrient bath, and that bath is composed of animal serum. Fetal bovine serum, to be exact, is the nutrient.

The blood is extracted from a fetus after it is removed from a slaughtered dairy cow and this kind of strays from the concept of no live animals used.

So much for trying to escape from the “ickiness” of slaughter by growing clean meat from cell lines.


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