US Approves Sale of Lab-Grown Meat, Jury Out on Its Environmental Benefits

According to initial studies, greenhouse gasses emitted across all of lab-grown meat's production stages are likely to be "orders of magnitude" higher than traditional meat.

New Delhi: The US Agriculture Department on Wednesday approved the sale of lab-grown meat in the country.

Upside Foods and Good Meat are the first two companies to complete the approval process. Last November, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already deemed their lab-grown meat safe to eat.

Uma Valeti, the CEO and founder of Upside Foods, described the approval as a “dream come true,” predicting that it “marks a new era. “This approval will fundamentally change how meat makes it to our table,” Valeti said in a statement. “It’s a giant step forward towards a more sustainable future — one that preserves choice and life.”

What is lab-grown meat?

Unlike plant-based meat, lab-grown meat actually contains animal protein. But unlike traditional meat, it does not involve the slaughter of animals, prompting its advocates to boast it is an “ethical” meat alternative.

It involves harvesting cells from a living animal or a fertilized cell, to then establish a cell bank. Cells are then cultivated in steel tanks and fed nutrients similar to what animals would consume.

Meat is then shaped into traditional cutlets such as filet, nuggets or satay.

In 2020, Singapore granted Just Eat authorization to produce artificial meat.

Where would the meat be sold?

Despite the US authorization, the lab-grown meat’s availability for average Americans’ consumption is not expected to happen overnight, largely due to the high cost of production.

In the meantime, upscale restaurants have made deals to use the meat at their establishments.

Upside said its first order was processed to three-Michelin-star Chef Dominique Crenn’s restaurant in San Francisco, Bar Crenn, while Good Meat’s first batch will be sold to celebrity chef Jose Andres.

Is lab-grown meat environmentally friendly?

The industry has also been met with enthusiasm from an environmental perspective.

As per figures by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock production accounts for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. By default, lab-grown meat is branded as an environmentally friendly alternative.

However, a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed research by the University of California last month suggested the innovative meat might not be as good for the environment as believed.

As per the research, the energy required and greenhouse gasses emitted across all of lab-grown meat’s production stages are likely to be “orders of magnitude” higher than traditional meat. This is especially true in the case of lab-grown beef.

This article was originally published on DW.