By Connor Lynch
Laboratory-grown meat for people to eat sounds like pure science fiction. But once upon a time, cell phones were pure science fiction. Now we’re told that lab-grown meat is coming and livestock producers need not be worried.
Lab-grown steak is years away, said Beef Farmers of Ontario’s communications manager LeaAnne Wuermli. Cost of production is the main factor. Growing meat in the lab is expensive. Inc. Magazine, a business publication in the U.S., figured one lab-meat producer would have to charge $3,800 a lb. just to break even. The idea’s being marketed as “clean meat,” a name that American livestock producers are none too happy about. In fact, earlier this year the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking that it define meat as having come from raised livestock and not from a lab.
A senior official with Cargill Proteins, the American agriculture and meat processing giant, was on-hand at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference in London, in Western Ontario in mid-August, to assure industry leaders from across Canada that the conventional beef industry still has a future.
As far as the BFO is concerned, lab meat is just another competitor, no different than any other protein like pork, chicken, tofu or pseudo-meat. Pseudo-meat is a recent development, spearheaded by U.S. company Beyond Meat. It partnered with A&W Canada to bring meatless meat-imitation burgers to market.
Essentially, it’s a plant-based patty with the same flavour molecules that are found in red meat and mimic the meat flavour.
The BFO is staying focused on its own industry, Wuermli said, talking about the environmental and nutritional benefits of beef grown the old-fashioned way.
It sounds a bizarre concept, but England’s Second World War hero and Prime Minister Winston Churchill predicted a future for lab meat back in 1931. In an essay titled “Fifty Years Hence,” published in The Strand Magazine he wrote: “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”