Cultured Meat and the Agricultural Sector, Friend or Foe?

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As global crises such as the COVID pandemic continue to affect supply chains and meat production facilities in the United States and across the world, could cultured meat be the future solution to the present issues faced by the agricultural sector?

The current COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the current status quo, forcing the society to reassess its activities and find alternative ways to create value. Traditional areas that during the pandemic were hardly hit or underwent a significant change could be now replaced or transformed forever. One such area is the agricultural sector. With supply chains interrupted and facilities upstream closed due to health risks, the need for an alternative to ease the impact for producers and retailers has been exacerbated.

Investing in cultured meat might prove useful for traditional meat producers as a back-up solution for situations such as the current pandemic, when several meat-packing plants had to be closed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Traditional animal husbandry practices need to evolve to keep up with demand, but at the same time have the faculty to overcome issues without affecting the supply of these products.

Other issues that widespread implementation of cultured meat could ease are excessive land use for grazing and the overconsumption of water required for animal husbandry.

Other perceived advantages of cultured meat are:

  • It matches the global movement of buying locally. Regardless of reasons (national pride, support for the local economy, attempt to prevent transport generated pollution, impossibility to import goods because of a pandemic, geopolitical conflicts, etc.) cultured meat could be produced in each town’s suburb or even in each household.
  • It responds to the increased desire of people to maintain their health by controlling the nutritional value of the foods they consume. cultured meat might therefore eliminate the antibiotic resistance problem, foodborne bacterial diseases, and might end up being entirely customizable in terms of nutritional content.
  • It is the perfect example of sustainable production ticking the boxes for meaningful consumption, environmental protection, and animal welfare.
  • The production process could be highly digitalized, eliminating human error, imperfections, or contamination. With the possibility to control every aspect of the production process, cultured meat fits perfectly into the “food-as-software” trend, being entirely adjustable to the customer’s needs.

There are a few cultured meat start-ups that are financially supported by established companies, usually in a similar or tangential industry. For example, in its Series B funding round, Memphis Meat raised money both from venture capitals, public persons (Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Kimbal Musk), but also from the food giant Cargill. However, there are more companies that can attract further potential investment with promising proprietary technology that could propel cultured meat to a widespread market sooner than 2030, which is the predicted date for cultured meat’s market availability.

What this means to farmers and agricultural interests is that cultured meat can be the next step forward in the industry, instead of a threat to the existence of agriculture. Large scale investment in cultured meat technologies by established meat companies could be viewed as a visionary investment in a technology that could help shape the future of agriculture and food production.

While this is true for highly developed and urbanized areas, there are still doubts lingering as to how these technologies will affect agriculture and animal husbandry in non-industrialized countries.

Further in-depth information is available in the Supertrends on cultured meat dynamic report, which includes a comprehensive analysis that provides insight to the key players, technologies and challenges to the future of cultured meat. Click here to find out more.

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