Josh Tetrick, CEO and founder of JUST, Inc. — formerly Hampton Creek – says that his company will be the first to get “clean meat” to consumers. And he’s bound and determined to see it happen before the year is out.
“It will be called JUST Meat, and the type of meat will be chicken,” Tetrick announced during an interview at CEBIT, a European festival celebrating business and digital innovation.
Clean meat — also known as “cultured meat” or “lab-grown meat” — involves growing real meat from animal cells, rather than killing animals and eating them. Enough companies are now working on clean meat that there’s a race underway to reach grocery store shelves and consumers.
“In the animal kingdom, we can take a cell from that animal, without killing the animal, feed it nutrients and then grow it, or brew it in the way you might brew beer,” Tetrick told d!talk in an interview from CEBIT. “So there’s a big toolkit in nature that we can use to make all sorts of products and big categories better, and we have to do it as fast as we can.”
According to The Good Food Institute:
The end goal is to produce clean meat that is cheaper than even the least expensive conventionally produced chicken. Leading experts believe that is achievable within 10 years given adequate support for clean meat research and development.
Can you imagine a world in which it becomes entirely unnecessary to raise and slaughter millions upon millions of chickens? All we need to get there is research, money and time. The benefits could be incalculable.
Investor company The Motley Fool knows a good thing when it sees one. The site tells its readers:
Clean meat could potentially provide the best of both worlds: food security and reduced impact on the environment. There’s no consensus on exactly how, and how much, this yet-to-be-commercialized tech could benefit society — but nearly every study agrees that the benefits would be extraordinary. One widely cited study estimates that clean meat production could reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 96%, energy consumption by 45%, land use by 99%, and water consumption by 96%.
Now you’re wondering if you should invest in this nascent technology, aren’t you? This industry certainly bears watching.
But is it vegan?
Is clean meat vegan? No, technically it’s not. That’s because the process uses actual cells taken from chickens to produce meat. For that reason, some vegans swear they’ll never buy it. That won’t kill the idea, though, because vegans aren’t the market niche that clean meat producers primarily target.
Companies like JUST, Inc. want to entice actual meat eaters to make the switch. Once they can get prices roughly in line with farm-grown meat, they have a real chance of winning over everyone.
Who wouldn’t prefer real meat that avoids the problems inherent in raising livestock for meat? Problems like:
- Environmental degradation and sustainability: Raising livestock causes or contributes to incredible environmental problems, including climate change, pollution, deforestation and biodiversity loss.
- Animal cruelty: No animals will suffer under the factory farming system. Clean meat is worth it for this result alone.
- Bacterial contamination: Bacterial contaminants can grow or survive during food processing and storage of meats. In poultry, that means the two main pathogens responsible for human gastroenteritis due to poultry meat — Salmonella and Campylobacter — are ever present. This problem doesn’t exist with clean meat — one reason for the name.
- Health issues: 80 percent of antibiotics produced in the U.S. are given to farm animals. Doing so contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Clean meat won’t need antibiotics at all.
- Feeding the planet: Producing clean meat will be three times as efficient as farming live chickens, which is the most efficient conventionally produced meat, says The Good Food Institute. That fact will better help us feed the 9.7 billion people populating this planet by 2050.
Tetrick noted an an earlier interview that JUST Meat will likely be available in restaurants before shoppers will be able to buy it in grocery stores. That tracks with the rollout of other companies’ vegan faux meats like the Impossible Burger, which for now we can find only in select restaurants.
Even meat producers understand that this technology represents the future of meat. Cargill, for example, has a stake in Memphis Meats, along with investors Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Tyson Foods is investing in cultured meats and plant-based proteins with Beyond Meat and Memphis Meats.
JUST Meat will not be vegan. As a vegan myself, would I eat it anyway? If it’s good, absolutely. I didn’t stop eating meat because I hated the taste. I gave it up because I couldn’t live with ending an animal’s life for food I didn’t need. Clean meat changes the playing field.
I don’t count myself among those vegans who object to how clean meat is made. The process begins by using animal cells, but it won’t have to rely on the use of animals indefinitely. To read about how clean meat is made and will be sustained as an animal-free practice into the future, take a look at this article by The Good Food Institute.
JUST Meat, and other companies producing clean meats — like Memphis Meats, Mosa Meat, Finless Foods and SuperMeat – have the potential to make slaughtering animals for food completely unnecessary. If we can make the product competitive with animal meat, we can feed the planet. And those two accomplishments would be monumental.
While I prefer not using animals for any purpose, the harvesting of cells for the creation of clean meat is something I’m happy to celebrate as a giant step forward for the well-being of — and eventual lack of need for — of farmed animals.
It looks like JUST Meat will reach consumers first, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.