How does beef get from pasture to plate?
That’s one question that consumers want answered, and they are relying on beef labels to gather more information about the cuts they select at the meat case.
Recently, at the annual Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) Feed Yard Camp, 23 high school students had the opportunity to discover exactly how beef is produced.
“I found out that just the process of getting cattle from the farm to the table, there’s so much attention to detail,” said Wyatt Harlan, a high school student from Slaton, Texas, who attended the camp. “There’s so much science behind it, and I didn’t realize it.”
Yes, the beef production chain — while backed by generations of time-honored traditions — is also firmly grounded in science. From antibiotics to hormones to transportation to slaughter to beef tenderness and taste, every step along the way has been extensively researched in order to produce the best-tasting, highest-quality, safest beef on the planet.
There’s a reason the world loves grass-fed, grain-finished beef produced in the United States — our safety precautions are rigorous; the flavor is unmatched; and it’s a wholesome, nutritious product that helps feed a growing planet.
Yet, there’s a new product being created in a lab that seeks to undermine the tradition, the science, the research and the reputation so carefully developed and nurtured by U.S. cattle ranchers.
Makers are calling it “clean meat” or “cultured meat,” but if you read Burt Rutherford’s BEEF Editor’s blog from a few weeks ago, it may also be best described as the “enemy.” And if you ask me, “Frankenfibers,” “fake meat” “in vitro meat” or “lab meat” work well, too.
In his column, Burt does a great job of debunking some of the claims of these fake meat companies. I encourage you to check it out and add the facts to your arsenal.
If you haven’t come across how these fake meat companies are promoting their new emerging products, the claims they are making may trouble you.
Take, for example, a video I stumbled across on Facebook Watch. Featured on Science Nature Page in a segment called “Today I read,” the video was produced with the help and resources of the University of Arizona, Maastricht University, NASA, MIT, VideoHive and Envato.
With 2.7 million views, the segment explains how fake meats are created. Here is the complete transcript:
Lab grown cultured meat could be in the market by the end of 2018. It will solve environmental problems and reduce our dependency on animals for meat. Meat can be grown in the lab from stem cultured cells. It is known as cultured or clean meat.
First, a small sample of muscle is taken from a live animal. Along with muscle cells, satellite cells are present in muscle tissue of animals. Satellite cells are adult stem cells or progenitor cells that can grow into the different types of cells found in muscles. Just one cell could, in theory, be used to grow an infinite amount of meat.
When fed in a culture medium that provides nutrients, vitamins and minerals, the cell turns into muscle cells and continues to grow. After the cells have multiplied they are encouraged to form strips just as natural muscle cells from fibers in living tissues. The resulting tissue can be cooked and consumed as boneless processed meat.
No genetic engineering is needed to grow the meet hence it is not a GMO. Clean meat may be healthier for consumers as cultured meat producers can control what type of fat goes into the meat. They can produce meat to contain healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which have protective effects for the heart, among other health benefits.
Now the race is on to make the first affordable cultured meat products. The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. As a result, our demand for meat will double in comparison to the last five years. Researchers believe cultured meat is key to meet the world’s meat demand.
Clean meat might also help reduce food borne illness. Most contamination of our current meat supply occurs during the slaughter process through cross contamination with the intestines. Clean meat does not involve slaughter and hence no cross contamination.
Some environmentalists believe the process could reverse the effects of climate change. A study predicts it could lower harmful greenhouse emissions by 96% and use 99% less land and 82% less water than traditional methods of growing meat.
The success of cultured meat depends on public acceptance. To gain public trust, efforts are being made to make the process as transparent as possible.
If you’re frustrated by these claims, you’re not alone. It’s essentially negated the science and research that has helped to create the safest beef supply in the planet and has, in turn, repeated the misinformation and falsehoods about our product that animal welfare and environmental activists love to spew.
By these fake meat manufacturers’ logic, we don’t need to grow food in the soil at all. Heck, let’s slap some concrete down on every flat surface we can find because the future is in laboratories. We can grow our lettuce, carrots, beef and bacon in a cold lab using synthetic processes. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?
Yet our consumer, who is scared of things like GMOs, will likely fall for these marketing tactics without questioning them. After all, consumer trust in farmers and ranchers has lacked in recent years, thus the growing popularity of farmers’ markets where shoppers can meet the people behind their meat.
If a smile and a handshake from someone familiar is what the consumer is looking for, then a laboratory with faceless manufacturers creating a processed meat-like product by growing fibers in a “culture medium” is the peak of hypocrisy.
For me, it’s a hard sell, but what about our consumer? Their reasonings aren’t always logical and sometimes their choices contradict themselves, but with promises of safer, healthier, environmentally-friendlier and kinder-to-the-animals meat, how do you think the consumer will respond once this product hits the market?
We’ve got our work cut out for us, folks. If there was ever a time to ramp up your efforts to tell your beef production story, now would be it. We can’t let some Frankenfood market itself as beef, and the industry needs to work together to ensure only beef that has been pasture-raised and slaughtered can be labeled as “beef.”
Our consumers deserve truth in the label, and we must not fall victim to high-dollar start-ups that seek to undermine and devalue our industry with their synthetic product.
Are you ready to act on this issue? Let’s take back the meat case today! Call your elected officials today and demand that they work toward properly labeling. Fake meats, synthetic meats (and even pea-protein veggie burgers) do not belong next to our steaks and burgers. Label them clearly and merchandize them elsewhere!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.