According to the United Nations, raising animals for food is one of the main causes of global warming and air and water pollution. Therefore, various initiatives have begun to look for a way to produce meat in the laboratory. The most common names to name it are: cultured meat, synthetic, in vitro, cultivated in the laboratory or even “clean”.
The most recent proposal comes from the United States, where a company called Just has already started manufacturing the first “chicken nuggets”. According to the BBC , the company has manufactured the meat from the cells of a chicken feather, which is still alive.
Just states that it takes approximately two days to produce a chicken nugget . They use a small bioreactor, a protein to stimulate the multiplication of cells, some kind of support to give structure to the product and a culture medium to feed the meat as it develops.
In addition, they not only manufacture meat, but also derived products. “We do things like eggs, ice cream or butter with plants, and we make meat with meat, you just do not need to kill the animal,” says Josh Tetrick, executive director of Just.
On the other hand, contrary to what one might think, the taste is not unpleasant. “We tried them and, really, it was impressive,” says Regan Morris for the British network. “The skin was crispy and the meat tasty, although its internal texture was somewhat softer than you would expect from a nugget, for example, from McDonald’s or KFC,” he adds.
However, although the taste may be similar to what we would find in ordinary meat, two major obstacles remain before people can see meat made in the laboratory in a restaurant: regulation, the livestock industry and public acceptance.
At least in the US, the government still does not know how to proceed. Most foods in the US they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But others, especially meat, are regulated by the USDA. Because of that, while in a hamburger, the meat is regulated by the USDA, cheese or bread is regulated by the FDA.
On the other hand, countries in Asia and Europe are showing interest. “I think there are countries that want to take the lead in this, either because of food shortages, sustainability problems or simply to build a completely new economy, they want to take the initiative in doing this,” says Tetrick.
While this is happening, the livestock lobby can delay the entry into the market of meat made in the laboratory. The first barrier? The labeling. “I think it should be labeled appropriately: protein produced in the lab,” says Billy Bruce, a cattle rancher in Ozark, Missouri. “When I think of meat, I think of what is behind us, in an animal that breathes alive,” he adds.
Lia Biondo, director of policy and dissemination of the Association of American Cattle Ranchers, is in the same line and hopes that the law of Missouri, that meat labels can only be used on livestock products, can be replicated in other states. “We will let these companies decide how to call their products as long as they do not call it meat or beef,” he says.
And the diners? At least for Ozark’s neighbors, the issue is settled: only that which comes from an animal is meat. “I like to know where it comes from, which is natural and not processed in a laboratory,” says Ashley Pospisil, a professor. “Meat must be raised on a farm, in the field,” says Jerry Kimrey, a construction worker.
However, Tetrick is not discouraged and believes that the benefits (such as being free of diseases) will make people accept progress in the same way as it has happened with other objects. “It always happens that way and, if I had to bet, it will also happen with this,” he concludes.