Reflections From the Second International Conference on Cultured Meat
We wrote about the Second Annual International Conference on Cultured Meat taking place in the Netherlands this year, and thanks to Emily Byrd and Christie Lagally of The Good Food Institute (GFI), we now have some reflections from the conference and some more information on what we can expect to see in the future of cultured–or “clean”–meat.
The conference ran from October 9 to October 11 in Maastricht and featured participants from The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan. The topics included tissue engineering and 3D printing, cell production, serum-free cell culture, ways to involve the established food industry and government, consumer attitudes, as well as how-to sessions.
Lagally, who is GFI’s senior scientist and mechanical engineer, stated that the conference made her feel more confident that clean meat is “well underway to sustainable development” and that it is “even closer” than she originally understood. When I asked how likely an animal-free serum would be in the near future, which could be the push needed for more vegetarians and vegans to get onboard, she responded:
“Animal free (both serum free and animal product free) growth media is already on the market for many cell lines. Again, this is an example of how we, as humans, have already figured out how to make animal-free media, but we just don’t happen to have the specific type of media for chicken, beef, or turkey cells. But it’s only a matter of time.”
Bruce Friedrich, the executive director of GFI, had a presentation focused on consumer acceptance with a promising thesis stating: “Once cultured meat is available and reaches price parity with conventional meat, consumers will buy it.” According to Byrd, GFI’s communications manager, the findings on consumer attitudes are very optimistic:
“Once clean meat hits the market and people are given the opportunity to compare the products of cellular agriculture right alongside the products of conventional animal agriculture, it becomes an easy choice. The surveys currently available show that when people are educated on the benefits of clean meat and then given the choice between clean meat and conventionally produced meat, they’re more likely to pick the former. As research shows that consumers are overwhelmingly opposed to factory farming, clean meat’s potential is tremendous.”
When I asked if there were any new companies or products we can get excited about, Lagally responded:
“A representative from Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology (KAIST) explained to me that their enterprise, MBG Incorporated, is working on developing clean meat within Korea to provide locally produced meat for Korea, rather than having to import animal-grown meat from other countries.”
She also added that she was delighted by Dr. Qasim Rafiq’s work in particular, who “spoke on serum-free processes for the production of cells as it applies to regenerative medicine.” She continued:
“This is extremely exciting work, because Dr. Rafiq and his team are forging ahead with technology that is not only great for the future of clean meat, but solves some of the major issues of regenerative medicine. It’s a win-win for both industries!”
With companies like Memphis Meats and SuperMeat working on bringing cultured meat to the masses, an observational documentary being made on the impact clean meat may have on food and the future of animal agriculture, and the findings of this conference, it seems Byrd is right–clean meat’s potential is tremendous!
Photo Credit: www.culturedbeef.org