Will Lab-Grown Meat Overtake the Animal Agriculture Industry?

We’re rocketing toward a future where we can have meat without slaughtering millions of animals. It’s a dream that threatens the animal agriculture industry and provides hope for farm animals around the world. And this dream is coming to life inside a laboratory.

Paul Cuatrecasas, CEO of Aquaa Partners, a London-based investment banking firm, says that meat producers better start paying attention to laboratory-grown — also known as “cultured” or “clean” — meat. He views it as a real threat to animal agriculture –- most immediately to those who grow animal feed.

“Faced with the choice between two types of meats: one that is cheaper, cleaner, and more environmentally friendly, and the other — which is not — I cannot see traditional meat winning out long term,” writes Cuatrecasas for Feed Navigator.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Cuatrecasas is right, of course. If we can create meat without harming animals — and without all the disease, environmental damage and pollution that comes along with animal agriculture — why wouldn’t we make that switch?

Cuatrecasas estimates that cultured meat will become a regular part of our diets within a decade or so.

Here’s the kicker: This is not a far-flung fantasy– we’re going to see cultured meat in stores within a year. Or at least, that’s the goal set by Hampton Creek, producer of the popular vegan Just Mayo.

The company has spread its wings beyond plant-based condiments and is now working on a cultured meat, probably poultry, that should be in stores by 2018. Initially, the product may cost 30 percent more than regular meat, but that price should drop over time.

Producing meat this way should be 10 times more efficient than animal agriculture methods. Hampton Creek says the process will use less water, less land and less energy.

“It’s an ambitious goal for sure, but yes, with the right resources, it should be achievable,” Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, told Business Insider. “Hampton Creek has gone beyond expectation with everything it has set out to do — it went from founding to unicorn status in about five years.”

And Hampton Creek isn’t the only company working hard to make “clean meat” a reality. We’re going to see products from ventures like Memphis Meats, which aims to hit the market around 2021. Then there’s Mosa Meat, which hopes to be in stores by 2020.

Lots of intelligent people are devoted to making lab-grown meat a reality. When they get it right, it’s going to be revolutionary.

Can we please just stop this as soon as possible?  Photo credit: Thinkstock

Can we please just stop this as soon as possible? Photo credit: Thinkstock

I’m a vegan, and I’d consider eating lab-grown meat every so often. Don’t look at me like that, fellow vegans and vegetarians. Not all of you will agree with my stance — perhaps not even most of you — but I didn’t give up eating meat because I didn’t like how it tasted.

I gave up animal products because I refused to be the end consumer for all that misery and suffering. I couldn’t allow animals to live and die as they currently do just to feed me.

I also object to the devastating impact of animal agriculture on the environment. Cultured meat could be the answer, because face it — most of the world won’t go vegan voluntarily. Overall, this option is a win for millions of animals.

Cultured meat is produced in-vitro using cell cultures harvested from living animals. And that’s the objectionable point for many vegans and vegetarians.

Such meat is therefore not “vegan” or “vegetarian” in the way plant-based faux meats can be. The culturing process is conceptually similar to generating human organs from stem cells. Some refer to it as “cellular agriculture,”  and it will admittedly require some donor animals for the cells required.

Still, though, I can’t get past the thought of the millions of cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys whose lives could be spared by producing meat this way.

That’s why I’m embracing this idea as a good one. If we can give meat eaters what they want without any of the factory farming and slaughterhouse agony, let’s do it. Such a development would save countless animal lives and prevent inestimable suffering.

Someday, maybe animals won't have to go through this.  Photo credit: Thinkstock

Someday, maybe animals won’t have to go through this. Photo credit: Thinkstock

Will people actually want to eat cultured meat, though, or will they reject it as unnatural Frankenmeat? That’s a concern we need not worry too much about, according to Cuatrecasas:

A US survey run by the University of Queensland this year found that two thirds of people were willing to try lab meat and a third thought it might become a regular part of their diet. Only 8.5% said they definitely wouldn’t. The others were either uncertain or erring on the side of no. Even more encouraging for the lab-meat industry is the fact that participants’ biggest concerns were not ethical at all: 79% were concerned that lab meat would lack flavor and many were put off by the idea of paying more. These are obstacles that can be overcome. Only a quarter were worried about it being unnatural.

Those in the animal agriculture industry need to pay attention to current trends and get on board. Investment advisors like Cuatrecasas see what’s coming, and they’re encouraging the industry to position itself for this sea change.

The future of meat is much more animal friendly. If the animal agriculture industry won’t embrace this idea, it will be left behind, choking on the dust of progress.

Photo credit: Hampton Creek


Melania P
Melania P12 hours ago

I hope so, technology should be used for good. But, is there the willing to do it?

Marie W
Marie W7 days ago

Thank you.

Michelle Spradley

If it doesn't come directly off an animal, it is not meat.

Mike R
Mike R3 months ago

Hope so.

Mike R
Mike R3 months ago

Hope so.

Mike R
Mike R3 months ago

Hope so.

Aaron F
Past Member 3 months ago

Why not grow vegetables in labs too and do away with all farming all together? Of course, you'd be depriving 3.2 million Americans of their livelihood...

Kay M
Kay M4 months ago

I'll pass.

Marija M
Marija M4 months ago


Jessica K
Jessica K4 months ago

As long as it's not genetically engineered and all ingredients are made known to the consumer, it's a good idea. Thanks.