Happy Trash Panda Tuesday! Today we're breaking down a highly discussed concept: lab-grown meat. Let's talk about what it is, how it's made, and more. As always, if you have any questions or thoughts, be sure to let us know on our Instagram.
What is Lab-Grown Meat?
Lab-grown meat, also known as cultured or cell-based meat, is a development in the field of food technology. It involves producing meat products by culturing animal cells in a lab instead of using the whole animal. The process includes extracting a small sample of animal cells, typically obtained through a biopsy or from stem cells and then cultivating them in a controlled environment where they multiply and form muscle tissue, mimicking the composition and texture of conventional meat.
How is Lab-Grown Meat Made?
The process starts by obtaining and preserving stem cells from an animal source. This is done via biopsy which is performed with large needles and is uncomfortable for animals. Therefore, this process is not entirely cruelty free. These cells then undergo cultivation within specialized vessels called bioreactors. Within these controlled environments, the cells are able to multiply at high densities and volumes. To simulate the natural conditions within an animal's body, the cells are treated with an oxygen-rich cell culture medium.
This medium comprises essential nutrients, including amino acids, glucose, vitamins, carbohydrates, and inorganic salts. Additionally, the cell culture medium is supplemented with growth factors and other proteins to promote optimal cellular growth and development.
Is Lab-Grown Meat FDA Approved?
GOOD Meat and UPSIDE Foods, two companies involved in the production of cell-cultured meat, recently gained approval from the FDA. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted its approval for the products developed by these companies. This marks the first regulatory clearance to create cell-cultured meat in the United States. The clearance of USDA approval for their cell-cultured meat products occurred with less than a year passing since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed the safety for human consumption.
What are the Health Concerns?
The main concern with lab-grown meat is the potential growth of cancer cells. Since the process includes animal cells replicating at a high speed and volume, the potential for the production of cancer cells in the process is a red flag. These cells could present the same characteristics as the cancer cells we know today. Due to the current ban on cancer-causing food additives in the U.S., we have skepticism about the potential introduction of lab-grown meat in our local supermarkets.
What are the benefits?
This new meat is created in highly controlled environments, offering protection against microbes and contamination. Intestinal pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter, which are known to cause illnesses in meat consumers, are not a concern with lab-grown meat.
The Bottom Line
While the primary goal of lab-grown meat is to enhance food security and promote animal welfare, our hesitance persists due to insufficient information that would assure the safety of this product for human consumption.
We need more information to confirm that it is safe, and it will be the responsibility of the FDA and USDA to ensure that production and consumption of these "meats" is safe for humans. It will be important that these products are labeled appropriately, including if any of the ingredients are genetically modified or produced using unmodified cells from animals.
It will also be important that these products don't introduce new allergens, that there are no hormones or antibiotics used, and that they don't contain any cancer-causing cells. Considering the lack of regulation from these agencies in the past, we're skeptical.
When consuming meat, it's ideal to find grass-fed beef and free range, organic poultry when possible. These options are much better than the highly processed, fake meat being sold today, and likely a much better option than the lab-grown meat of the future.