Lab-grown meat has a new contender claiming it will be the first to bring the product to the market. Except this company, unlike its competitors in the race to produce and sell “clean meat” grown in a petri dish, is a vegan brand.
Hampton Creek, purveyors of Just Mayo, Just Dressing, Just Cookie Dough, and Just Cookies, has been carving out a name for itself since unveiling its first product, Beyond Eggs, in 2013. The company’s most popular product, Just Mayo, hit stores seven months later. Hampton Creek's products are considered a game-changer for both vegans and carnivores, as their products are often indistinguishable from their meat- and dairy-based predecessors.
But if it seems strange that a vegan food company would be pursuing the distribution of a product that relies on animals (even if just on a single-cell level), that’s because to some people, it certainly is.
The end game of lab-meat is to end animal slaughter entirely.
While it’s unclear how many animals will endure unpleasantries and death during the testing and cellular extraction phase of lab-grown meat, the end goal is to not require any animal slaughter or breeding. In fact, this new product would only require one cell to make many billions of product, cut land use by 99 percent, and produce 90 percent less greenhouse gas. Theoretically that could work wonders to clean the planet up, significantly reduce rates of deforestation, and curb the amount of livestock on the planet being bred over and over, thereby reducing carbon emissions.
What the process will require, however, is a whole lot of ingenuity. For now, the lab-meat process involves taking a culture of stem cells from living animals, and putting them in a small container to produce muscle cells. To add some flavor and texture to the product, scientists are experimenting with artificial blood and fat, as well as 3-D printers to “build” steaks and burgers.
The lab-meat race is only quickening.
“The fact that Hampton Creek has so many resources at its fingertips is very promising for speeding up the commercialization of clean meat,” Paul Shapiro, vice president of policy at the Humane Society of the United States, told Quartz. While Memphis Meats has raised $5 million since 2015 from investors, Hampton Creek has raised more than $120 million since its creation.
That notion, along with normal sprints to the finish among competitors, and the falling price of lab meat, are all sure to help speed up production.
“Once we have clean meat that is cost-competitive with animal-based meat, that will be the beginning of the end of all the harms of industrial agriculture,” Bruce Friedrich, head of the Good Food Institute, told Quartz. And that might make the meat industry sit up and take notice—if it hasn’t already.
“We’re talking to a number of them [meat companies] right now all across the world,” Tetrick told Quartz, saying he expects meat companies to become investors in lab meat as it stands to take over the market. “I’d expect one or two of these partnerships to cross the finish line [soon].”