Ready or not, here comes cultured meat

By : Spencer Chase

No matter whether you view cultured meat as the next big thing in food or a troubling way to render traditional protein useless, you might soon be viewing it on the menu.

Companies producing meat through cell-cultured technology say they are closer than ever to putting a commercially available finished product on dinner plates, but not everyone shares their level of optimism.

The technology has appeared on the agenda of agricultural dialogues across the country for the last year. For the most part, that dialogue has taken the form of questions ranging from curious to panicked: What exactly is it? Does it taste good? Does anyone want to buy it? How much does it cost? Are they trying to shut down animal agriculture?

On top of that, the academic space has a few queries it would like to address.

“The questions that we’ll try to answer will be related to the nutrient content and the protein functionality of the product,” Rhonda Miller, a Texas A&M meat scientist and a past president of the American Meat Science Association, told members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture on Tuesday.

“I’m just going to tell you, I don’t look at this as voodoo science, because we’ve had a lot of those cells that we’ve used within the health industry and the meat industry,” she added. “They wouldn’t grow if they weren’t properly functional.”

A year later, with those questions mostly addressed in more gray than black and white, the regulatory framework is said to be right around the corner and the products might not be too far behind it.

Speaking at last week’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va., USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Carmen Rottenberg said USDA and FDA hoped to have their joint regulatory pathway for the technology out “very soon.”

Once that happens, two companies using cultured technology to grow meat from animal cells say they are close to public availability.

 

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