Cultured, lab-grown, in-vitro, cultivated or slaughter-free meat. All these terms are used to describe the same thing: meat that is grown from tissue. Instead of rearing and killing an animal, the meat is grown directly from individual animal cells. So what is this meat from the petri dish all about? What do restaurateurs need to know, and how soon can we expect to see cultured meat in restaurants? Mickael Penvern, Group Category Manager for Alternative Proteins at Classic Fine Foods (CFF), answers three questions on the challenges regarding cell-based meat that still need to be solved.
Is cultivated meat already being produced on a large scale?
Cultivated meat is produced by growing cells from an animal in a nutrient-rich culture medium. The grown muscle and fat cells are then combined to produce meat in a process that takes a fraction of the time and resource needed to rear an animal. The industry is currently in its infancy, and there is scope for further scientific advances in terms of selecting the right cells and procuring the necessary nutrients at a reasonable cost. Several business models are envisioned, ranging from small-scale, decentralised urban farms (where your local butcher could produce meat in the back of his shop) to mid-scale operations relying on existing farm infrastructure, or large-scale factories. Production is currently very low in volume, but production capacities are expected to increase in the coming years.
When will cultured meat be commonplace on restaurant menus?
Several companies around the world are in the process of setting up pilot plants to produce the first wave of commercial products, but regulatory approval is required. In December 2020, The Singapore Food Agency approved the world’s first cultivated meat product for sale, and shortly thereafter, the first commercial sale took place in a restaurant . Other countries are also making progress. In November 2022, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the green light to a cultivated chicken product , paving the way for these products to go on sale in wholesale and restaurants. The European Union has also indicated its intention to regulate cultivated meat under the Novel Foods Regulation, possibly as soon as 2024 or 2025.
In addition to regulatory approval, for cultivated meat to become commonplace on restaurant menus, there needs to be more advocacy or push by the governments, as part of a solution for food safety and a more sustainable food system. The physical ability of the products to be available in as many locations as possible and mass consumer acceptance are also important factors.
👈 The story behind cultured meat and how it’s being produced: MPULSE has also spoken to Jette Feveile Young, Professor at the Institute for Food Science in Aarhus, Denmark, about this.
How do consumers feel about it?
Like any new product or technology, there will be early adopters and those against it. The consumer’s age, level of education, environmental and ethical beliefs, and individual stance toward new technologies all play a part. However, the success of various vegetarian meat substitutes on the market shows that they can work. Ethical and environmental awareness means that quite a few customers are prepared to pay a higher price for alternative meat products. Ultimately, it all comes down to the senses, the products must taste good!
With technological improvements, enhanced product quality, major convenience, and availability, coupled with a competitive price point and consumers education, it is only a matter of time before cultivated meat becomes a part of our lives.
Alternative proteins in the product range
Classic Fine Foods (CFF) is one of the food service delivery specialists in the METRO portfolio. (Read more: Culinary delights delivered by METRO.) CFF aims to offer HoReCa customers even more choice by adding innovative products to its tried-and-tested range of high-quality goods. Cultivated products could be an additional element in the product mix as soon as the law allows. A product range of alternative protein sources will also help to meet the growing need for proteins and sustainable development goals. More: METRO responsibility – alternative proteins.