About this Research Topic
Dietary consumption of meat is a hallmark of most human cultures and civilizations. The rise of vegetarianism and veganism is significant but consumers across the globe will continue to eat meat at untenable amounts. Moreover, evidence is mounting that total depletion of animal products in a human diet could lead to symptoms of malnourishment and nutritional deficiencies.
Independent of the nutritional debate, it is becoming very clear that human meat consumption is linked with a substantial challenge to global food security, with excessive creation of greenhouse gas and with an ever-growing requirement for water. Animal derived meat frequently is contaminated with a host of different toxins and more recently, a discussion is emerging on the occurrence of microplastics in the terrestrial food chain.
Most importantly, the consumption of meat increasingly is associated with a strong emotional component deeply entrenched in compassion and empathy with the animals. This component only will increase as scientific research in the behavioral and Neurosciences will strengthen the likeness between humans and the animals we consume.
Over the past decade, enormous progress has been made in the domain of cellular agriculture. Rooted in the biomedical area, technologies are being developed that allow for the cultivation at scale of animal derived cells to create cultured meat (also known as lab grown meat or clean meat). Overall the vision for cellular agriculture is not only limited to meat but also to the production of fish, eggs, milk, leather and even silk.
The promise of cellular agriculture is vast - ranging from strengthened food security, dramatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions and land use to responsible water utilization and an improved energy balance. The key selling point for the technology most likely is the rescue of billions of animals that are being slaughtered to supply our rising demand for meat.
While scaling and costs of cultured meat production are still an extortionate obstacle for any potential route to market, clean meat is rapidly becoming a movement. Excitement about the advent of new technology is nothing new, unfortunately often such enthusiasm gave way to a sober realization that some of the key issues related to the previous technology remain or that even new problems arise.
Various startup companies are exploring the domain and several of them are backed with significant investment through large multinational players. The key technical challenges are related with scale and cost of the product and projections vary between several months to several years for the first implementation of products in the markets.
The technology and emerging commercialization of meat-like sources for alternative protein is beginning to display a spectrum of facets ranging from pure cultured animal cells derived from a live animal biopsy devoid of any further animal part to plant-based formulations lacking any “meat-cells” in the first place.
However, consumer acceptance for cellular agriculture products will be linked with the transparency of the entire process. Are there lessons to be learned from Food technology developments in the past?
With this Research Topic we aim to address the key questions behind clean meat and we want to shine light on the subject from various angles: Scientifically, societally and economically. We are excited to invite scientists, entrepreneurs and all other stakeholders in this growing field to share with us their technical, commercial and consumer insights.
● Can we produce enough clean meat?
● Do we have sustainable solutions for serum free growth at scale for meat cells? This is both a conceptual and also a commercial requirement.
● What are the necessary steps to develop scaffolds for appropriate organoleptic properties?
● Will clean meat indeed provide increased levels of food safety and quality, i.e. no hormones, no antibiotics and no toxins?
● Will the technology indeed provide for a measurable impact on sustainability and the environment?
● What are the regulatory requirements in different geographies related to the roll out of meat-like products and cultured meat.
● Impact on supply chain
● What is the market outlook for the various startup companies?
● Will cultured meat be affordable to all consumers?
● Will cultured meat products really provide convincing taste and textural features as consumers know it from animal derived meat?
● Could cultured meat be attractive to vegetarians or vegans?
● Can we prevent counterfit clean meat?
● Health impact of clean meat vs. animal meat.
● Will cultured meat products provide nutritional quality equivalent to animal meat?
● The world of food has had and continues to have its share of failures, scandals and misguided perceptions. In the context of cultured meat, what are the key elements to pave the way for technical and commercial success – to enable the current vision of guilt free and environmentally apt meat consumption? The worst thing that could happen to the growing cultured meat technology would be widespread discreditation through unclear communication.
● How will technology and products evolve over the coming years and decades?
Keywords: Diet, Sustainability, Cellular agriculture, Food technology, Cultured Meats
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