This month, GFI senior scientist Dr. Liz Specht travelled to The Netherlands to give a keynote speech at the International Cultured Meat Conference, where global leaders in clean meat innovation met to discuss advances in the field. In my excitement, I couldn’t help but pester Liz for updates. And guess what? She came through in a big way. Now we all get an inside perspective on the clean meat’s biggest event! You’re welcome.
Here are the three things that most excited Liz about this year’s conference:
Apparently, Liz found this conference especially inspiring because it was clear that so much progress had been made in just the 11 months since the last conference in Maastricht. The majority of the talks this year focused on work that has actually been done in direct pursuit of advancing clean meat, rather than simply work in other tissue engineering or industrial biotechnology fields that is applicable to clean meat.
There are three specific advances reported at this conference that capture Liz’s excitement across several fronts: one regarding consumer acceptance, one technical, and one pertaining to the environmental benefits of clean meat. And not to worry, we'll be expanding on these topics in coming posts! Stay tuned.
Will People Eat Clean Meat?
On the consumer acceptance front, Nathalie Rolland of Maastricht University described the first in-person sensory experience study regarding clean meat, which she conducted in Maastricht with a sample population that roughly mirrored the demographics of The Netherlands more broadly. Participants rated a sample they were told was “cultured meat”* more positively than a sample they were told was conventionally produced meat. Surprise: Both samples were in fact the same product.
The majority of participants also indicated that they were willing to pay a substantial premium for the clean meat version of the product. While all surveys suffer from uncertainty about whether respondents’ actual behavior will actually reflect what they claim in the survey, this study gave us some indication that people may actually be more willing to try clean meat than they even claim themselves: All participants willingly sampled the product they were told was clean meat – even the small fraction that previously said they would not be willing to eat such a product.
*Wondering why we call it clean meat? Read up.
The most exciting technical talk, in Liz’s view, was Dr. Marianne Ellis’ bioprocess engineering work to provide a rigorous, highly detailed analysis of the material and energy inputs and outputs of a clean meat production facility.
This analysis also examined the economic benefits of incorporating revenue from valuable by-products of cell metabolism that have other industrial applications. Dr. Ellis’ analysis entailed thousands of hours of work by her research group and chemical engineering undergraduate students and has been critically needed in the clean meat field, both to reduce costs and to quantify the potential efficiency of this form of production.
So Much Land, So Little Grazing
Finally, there is very exciting work being done to assess the environmental impact of clean meat in comparison to conventionally produced meat.
The most recent work includes adjustments to reflect media formulations that are likely to be used for clean meat cells, and also incorporates land-use change considerations for the land freed up by switching from conventional meat to clean meat.
These indirect effects of shifting towards clean meat are incredibly important at a global scale, and it’s imperative that we consider them when assessing the overall impact of clean meat relative to the meat produced every day on factory farms.
We’re making significant progress, my friends. Prep yourself for a future where meat production is eco- and animal-friendly, because it’s on the way!
To learn more about the state of this innovation, read GFI’s Clean Meat Industry Mindmap, the first open-sourced guide that outlines this nascent field.