Talk of “clean” (i.e., cultured) meat has circulated for several years now, but clean meat startup Mosa Meat’s feature in digital magazine TakePart brings clean meat to the main stage. The first clean burger, which debuted in London in 2013, cost more than $300,000, a high price to pay for a product aimed at increasing the amount of food the planet can produce; however, with the help of Mark Post, a professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and collaborator with Mosa Meat, the clean burger patty may soon be an affordable and accessible meat alternative.
Clean beef is produced by culturing cow cells to produce muscle fibers, which means no cow pays the price for an all-beef burger. If Mosa Meat can increase production as it hopes, its clean beef could cost a competitive $3.60 per pound.
A clean patty isn’t just ethically superior to a traditional burger; its environmental benefits are endless. Producing clean meat eliminates the need for feeding mass quantities of cows and upholding the land they take up. Clean meat production therefore does not create the methane release that results when nitrogen is added to soil as fertilizer.
With the human population projected to grow to 9.7 billion by 2050—and thus the need for an increase in food production by 70 percent—a sustainable meat alternative is critical to the future of the planet. According to a 2011 study by researcher Hanna Tuomisto, clean meat could require 45 percent less energy, 96 percent less greenhouse gas, 99 percent less land, and 96 percent less water.
Despite rising debate about whether a product like Mosa Meat’s could be consumed on a vegetarian or vegan diet, meat eaters themselves may be the key to the product’s success. Tuomisto observed that “[i]t’s difficult to change behavior … it might be easier to change the way we produce meat rather than try to convince people to eat vegetarian products.” Even Mosa Meat’s CEO Peter Verstrate has stated that meat eaters are the target audience for clean burgers.
Clean beef is now closer than ever to appearing on restaurant menus and in grocery stores, but Mosa Meat still has some work to do. The original 2013 clean patty was made entirely of muscle tissue, making the burger entirely protein. But the key to an as-real-as-it-gets burger is fat. Post and the Mosa Meat team are working on adding clean fat, along with ingredients that could help the beef’s shelf life, taste, and color, to the clean muscle.
Much like a new medicine would, Mosa Meat’s beef faces years of regulatory processes before it can be sold; however, the governments of the Netherlands and the U.K. have taken measures to ensure that meat lobbyists do not destroy the product in its regulatory phases.
Many will fight the introduction of clean beef into the meat market, but it may be the key to a sustainable future. Visit The Good Food Institute here to learn more about sustainable meat sources and other companies contributing to the solution.