14 Jun 2018 --- Israeli start-up, Aleph Farms, is calling on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to promote “clean meat” for its compelling safety advantages, such as being antibiotic-free and pathogen free. This request comes in response to the US Cattlemen’s Association’s (USCA) petition to the USDA to restrict the terms “beef” and “meat” only to slaughtered animal-based products.
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of antibiotics solely for animal growth promotion. Despite the FDA’s restrictions, 70 to 80 percent of US antibiotic sales go to livestock, according to the New York Times. This fact raises public health concerns about increased antibiotic resistance, which causes about 23,000 American deaths a year and US$34 billion in financial losses annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC also estimates that every year, more than 400,000 American residents become ill with infections caused by antibiotic-resistant food-borne bacteria. Ironically, antibiotics may not prevent pathogens in meat. For example, a 2014 Consumer Reports study found that illness-causing bacteria on 97 percent of inspected raw chicken breasts purchased at retail stores nationwide.
“Aleph Farms grows antibiotic-free clean meat outside of the animal in a safe, controlled environment, preventing the development of bacteria,” notes Dr. Neta Lavon, Vice President of R&D at Aleph Farms. “Aleph Farms views its advanced 3D cellular agriculture technology as the next step in agricultural practices.”
“A key USDA role is to minimize consumer exposure to unsafe agricultural products, including meat,” says Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms. “In recent years, the USDA has implemented new proactive policies to reduce pathogens in animal products. The innovation of clean meat is a natural development in line with USDA policies to reduce exposure to pathogens. Most meat is contaminated during the slaughter process, and clean meat eliminates this risk.”
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Toubia explains: “The original vision for clean meat was for sustainability and animal welfare, but at Aleph Farms we believe clean meat will practically succeed in the market thanks to its main advantages such as high food safety and full transparency.”
According to Toubia, ING Report 2017 quotes poor health profile as the major factor why 32 percent of European consumers have the inclination to eat no or less meat in five years. “Consumers are looking for alternative proteins that are more sustainable and safer, but they don't want to give up eating meat. Clean meat answers the health-conscious consumer demand,” he says.
The industry is implementing proactive policies for reducing pathogens and antibiotics and clean meat is the next step in this respect. “Consumers deserve eating safe, clean meat products,” he adds.
USDA started implementing pro-active policies to prevent pathogens in 2012 and the FDA began banning antibiotics for healthy cattle last year. Toubia believes this move is happening at “the right time and place.”
Both regulator and consumer awareness and willingness to act are at a high level, he adds.
In terms of further expansion, Aleph Farms plans to develop a whole product line, starting with beef, and then other meat in the longer term.
“We just don’t need antibiotics in clean meat. I assume most of the clean meat companies are going that direction,” Toubia states. “Especially in the US and Europe. Asia is following closely behind.”
USCA members may perceive clean meat as a threat to their businesses. The cattlemen’s petition claimed that clean meat products “are likely to become more prevalent in the marketplace and take away market share from farmers.” Given the forecasted protein shortage worldwide, Aleph Farms trusts that there is plenty of room in the market for all.
“We understand this is a sensitive issue for the cattlemen, but at Aleph Farms, we see the introduction of clean meat as an industry-wide opportunity, rather than a threat,” adds Toubia. “We are not looking to replace farmed meat, but rather to offer an additional choice to the consumer.”
“Aleph Farms has tremendous respect for hardworking cattle farmers; my wife is a farmer, too,” Toubia concludes. “The farmers’ role is to feed the world, so they should be willing to embrace new food production technologies.”
Early last month, FoodIngredientsFirst reported that Aleph Farms was scaling up production of clean meat with the use of 3D technology. You can read the full story here.
By Elizabeth Green
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