Tyson Foods Inc., the world’s second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, recently announced that it plans to work with Future Meat Technologies, a group that produces artificial or “clean meat” for human consumption. Tyson invested $2.2 million in seed funding for developing alternative sources of protein that would make slaughtering unnecessary and would satisfy consumers’ taste demands.
Future Meat intends to cultivate lab-grown meat by modifying stem cells taken from living animals through an external biopsy. Yaakov Nahmias, chief scientist at Future Meat and a bioengineering professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, introduced a different type of cell from chicken, mesenchymal. This type of cell requires less nutrition and grows faster compared to other body cells, according to food-industry news source Food Navigator.
Additionally, the company utilizes connective tissue cells that have unlimited capacity to reproduce and develop into other cells which allows scientists to design the meat taste, aroma, and texture.
Overpopulation is one of the major motivating forces behind Tyson’s decision to pursue artificial meat. According to United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “the current world population of 7.3 billion is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030.”
With population growth assumed to be inevitable and substantial, the World Health Organization predicts that the demand for meat is expected to rise to 45.3 kilogram per capita in 2030. Nahmias believes that with such a large population, individuals will need to shift their meat consumption to a more sustainable and healthy mode.
Tonya Garcia, a MarketWatch journalist, stated that “cultured meat” promises consumers a healthier and safer food choice while maintaining authentic meat aroma and flavor. Moreover, meat grown in labs has a lower risk of containing potential viruses or parasites that are more likely to be contained in real meat.
Furthermore, the whole cultured meat producing process, unlike conventional meat production processes, takes place in a lab. This eliminates the probability of contamination during transportation. Scientists cultivate cells in a nearly germ-free environment which substantially minimizes the probability of meat spoilage.
Additionally, artificial meat will allow ethical vegetarians and vegans to experience the unique taste of meat. With this technology, individuals do not have to choose between protecting animal life and tasting meat because this technology makes slaughtering unnecessary.
However, convincing consumers to accept cultured meat remains a challenge for its advocators. According to Technomic, a food service management and consulting company, “sixty percent of consumers (69% of women and 51% of men) said that they would be hesitant to eat lab-grown beef.”
To alter consumers’ perception, Future Meat Technologies first focused on lowering the price of cultured meat. To eliminate consumable cost, the company mimics the process of cellular differentiation to recirculate the culture medium, Nahmias explained in Food Navigator. Accordingly, he predicts the company can reduce the cost to around $5 per kg.
In the meantime, Tyson Foods Inc. will keep advancing conventional meat production. Altogether, this company manages to bring consumers with a brand new food system in which more sustainable and healthy meat is produced without any threat to our current environment and animals.