Meat industry tries to block the growth of clean meat – but can it?

 
 The team at Memphis Meats, which is backed by Tyson Foods and Cargill, created the world's first "clean fried chicken" last year. Its production method uses 90 percent less water and land than conventional meat. The company expects to have a product ready for market by 2021 or sooner. Photo from  Memphis Meats

The team at Memphis Meats, which is backed by Tyson Foods and Cargill, created the world's first "clean fried chicken" last year. Its production method uses 90 percent less water and land than conventional meat. The company expects to have a product ready for market by 2021 or sooner. Photo from Memphis Meats

Clean meat may be available as soon as six to eight months from now, and meat producers are worried. In response to pressure from the meat industry to slow the progress of clean meat start-ups, which are developing the technology to produce slaughter-free chicken, butter, sausages, burgers, and more, the House Appropriations Committee just advanced a restrictive draft spending bill.

The bill includes a one-line provision putting clean meat entirely under the purview of the USDA, which has little if any experience regulating tech start-ups, instead of under the FDA, which openly supports innovation in food technology. The Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that supports clean meat technology, immediately pushed back against the draft spending bill, arguing the move could “slow down innovation.”

the brutal reality of factory farming

The meat industry is also lobbying against clean meat even being called meat, saying the term should only apply to animals “born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner.” But a big reason to believe in a future for clean meat is the growing awareness of what being raised "in the traditional manner" means.

Farm animals are subjected to extreme cruelty, packed into overcrowded feedlots, sheds and crates, with limited if any access to the outdoors, and forced to live in their own waste. This waste gives off large amounts of toxic gases that pollute the air and water, and significantly contribute to global warming.

Clean meat producers are betting that, if given the choice, people will choose the more humane, environmentally friendly option. In fact, a recent poll by the Sentience Institute, a new non-profit think tank, finds that 53 percent of Americans say they'd prefer to eat clean meat instead of animal-based meat if the price was competitive.

Clean meat is the same as meat produced in animals’ bodies, but is instead produced through technology, with far fewer resources and more safely.
— Paul Shapiro

Clean meat is coming

Many meat producers themselves believe the arrival of clean meat is inevitable. Tyson Foods and Cargill are among those that have invested in clean meat startups because the future looks so promising. The industry is also likely to get support from the FDA, should it ever come to that. "Given information we have at the time," an FDA representative recently told CNN, "it seems reasonable to think that cultured meat, if manufactured in accordance with appropriate safety standards and all relevant regulations, could be consumed safely." 

 The meat industry is fighting hard to stifle clean meat innovation, but the movement might be too far along to stop. Reasons include the fact that no animals are harmed in the making of products like  JUST 's lab-grown chorizo tacos, pictured here. Photo from  Wired

The meat industry is fighting hard to stifle clean meat innovation, but the movement might be too far along to stop. Reasons include the fact that no animals are harmed in the making of products like JUST's lab-grown chorizo tacos, pictured here. Photo from Wired

Supporters of clean meat think people will come around to it because it's the real thing, but cleaner and kinder. “Just like ice made by technology is the same as ice frozen by nature in a lake but safer,” writes Paul Shapiro, former executive at the Humane Society of the United States and author of Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World“Clean meat is the same as meat produced in animals’ bodies, but is instead produced through technology, with far fewer resources and more safely.”

Takeaway: Clean meat is coming! Check out our guide on when you can expect to find animal-free butter, chicken, burgers, and more. We've also put together a list of the most delicious plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy.