Could cultured meat be a more ethical alternative to slaughtered animals? The world’s first “slaughter-free” hamburger was developed in 2013, at the eye-watering cost of €250,000 (by comparison, the average price of a Big Mac in the Eurozone is €4.56).

As the technology develops further, it’s possible to imagine a future where stem cells from a single cow produce thousands of kilograms of cultured meat. Might that help satisfy our demand for meat without the need for factory farming and slaughterhouses? Could cultured meat make for more ethical, environmentally-friendly, and sustainable diets?

Not so fast. Currently, the process of cultivating cells into sufficient quantities of meat for the dining room table is difficult without fetal bovine serum, which requires slaughtering pregnant cows. Clearly, this isn’t exactly a veggie-friendly option.

What do our readers think? We had an optimistic comment from Bart, who thinks we will indeed all soon be eating “lab-grown meat”, which he believes will be much better ethically and environmentally.

To get a response, we spoke to Green MEP Jutta Paulus, a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. What would she say to Bart?

I think it is not yet possible to give a definitive answer to this question. So far, I haven’t seen any process that doesn’t use fetal bovine serum. This fetal bovine serum contains growth factors, which are needed to make the cell cultures grow under laboratory conditions. That means that you need a pregnant cow, you have to cut her open, kill the calf and take out the blood serum. This isn’t possible on a mass scale and there is still animal suffering.

For us, what is important is health, preventing animal suffering and, of course, it has to be sustainable. Speaking as somebody who used to work in a lab as a quality controller, I know how much effort is put into cell cultures and, at the moment, I don’t think there’s a suitable substitute to replace naturally grown meat.

UPDATE: Reacting to Jutta Paulus’ response, we had a comment sent in from Hélene Miller from Aleph Farms:

Thank you for the debate. Mrs. Paulus, I appreciate your input but I’d like to highlight that Aleph Farms, like all the other cultivated meat companies, does not plan to use any animal-derived ingredient (i.e fetal bovine serum) in their growth medium. The medium is intended to reproduce the same cell environment as inside the animal and will include the same nutrients; amino-acids, proteins, sugars, vitamins; and growth factors found in the animal blood. Most of those ingredients will be isolated from plants, and part of them might be produced by yeasts. Happy to continue the debate.

Next up, we had a comment from Pete, who has strong beliefs on this issue, saying: “I will go vegetarian before I eat lab-grown meat… and I’m a big meat eater.” Is there something off-putting about the idea of eating meat grown in a laboratory?

We asked Hélene Miller why some consumers reject cultured meat. She works at the start-up Aleph Farms, which produces cell-grown meat. How would she respond?

Finally, Christos sent us a comment saying he’s worried that lab-grown meat could be dangerous for our health. He believes the best approach is instead to eat less meat, not to turn to lab-grown meat. How would Green MEP Jutta Paulus?

At the beginning of November, the European Food Safety Authority visited us at the ENVI committee and I had the impression that they thoroughly check new food products that enter the market, what they contain, and how this will impact the health of consumers.

Of course, the human body is a very complex system and some issues may only be discovered later. I think the system that we have is a very good one but no system in the world would be able to detect all risks. I don’t believe that lab-grown meat or artificial meat are per se more dangerous or more harmful to our health than meat from factory farming, where you might have residue from antibiotics or pesticides from the animal feed, but we should ensure that we use the same standards to judge them.

Would you eat lab-grown meat? Is there something off-putting about the idea of eating meat grown in a laboratory? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts!

Image Credits: Mosa Meat (c) Redwan Farooq; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Paulus (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE) GRÜNE RLP



64 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Любомир

    If it’s at an affordable price – why not?

  2. avatar
    Pedro

    No. I eat food. why eating that strange stuff when I can eat the real thing?

  3. avatar
    Gabor

    The real and only one relevant question for today are not this! This is already happend. The only one real and relevant question is much more, “what you want for the dinner Honey, bugs and insects, or may you like more lab-meat from the bottle”. I’ll think, for the not so very far future this will be our only options. I think we will have the options and we going to eat bugs and labs too.

  4. avatar
    Bódis

    Someone who works 40 hours a week should be able to afford proper nutrition, including healthy meat. If you work and can’t afford a home, can’t afford decent food and can’t afford raising a family then you are indeed nothing but a slave regardless of your “freedoms” to fff whatever crawls on this earth.

  5. avatar
    Antonio

    Yes it’s the future! We need to massively invest in this! Let’s follow Bill Gates example!

    • avatar
      Bódis

      It’s sick. It steals the jobs from farmers and feeds patented-trash to people

    • avatar
      Antonio

      trash? Do you have scientific proof about it? It will be more safer than the shitty meat most people eat! Majority of people don’t buy local but they buy from intensive farming!
      Why you people talk without having a drop of scientific evidence?

  6. avatar
    Bódis

    Artificial meat is a way to make sure that the proceeds from protein-production go from the local farmers and small businesses to the patent-owner large corporations. Nothing good will come from that. Millions would lose their livelihood while some globalist oligarchs will become even wealthier.

  7. avatar
    Julia

    Many people do not wish to eat science experiment foods. Natural food is healthy for beings of nature. The more science and chemistry experiements we eat, the more ill we get as a species. Nobody has a right to force or encourage dietary changes on people that could possibly harm their health at some point in the future-when it may be too late. If people want to save the environment, they should look at green energy not animals. People who want to save animals need to accept the ugly reality tied with most humans beings nutrition from a natural animal-based diet. Corporations just want to make money, they will sell anything with any story-but ultimately it is profits and a larger market share that they really want.

    • avatar
      Tiago

      You have a point. But our heating habits have an extremely huge impact on the ecosystem and, unless we’re willing to completely change our diets for more sustainable natural made foods and possibly depend on nutritional supplements we might be missing, we are going to have to find alternative ways to produce the raw materials needed for our dietary needs. There’s also the ethical aspect of animal killing that not every farm and/or slaughter follow or people accept, and the impact that crop farms have in the ecosystem. If we find more resourceful ways to produce our food we should probably invest in it, either we like it or not.

    • avatar
      Pedro

      Julia they already do that, regardless of the origin of the product.
      Also, if properly verified, it’s the same. It’s just cloned meat.

    • avatar
      Bódis

      If you want people to eat less meat, we need to create laws to ensure that animals are raised more freely and have proper fodder and grass instead of all that GMO stuff. Their meat would be healthier and the price would be higher so we would eat it less often.

  8. avatar
    Bódis

    Tiago – Artificial meat is a way to make sure that the proceeds from protein-production go from the local farmers and small businesses to the patent-owner large corporations. Nothing good will come from that. Millions would lose their livelihood while some globalist oligarchs will become even wealthier.

    100 companies are responsible for 71% of all artificial CO2 emmissions yet the media is quiet about them while they pave the way for the corporations’ artificial meats.

    If you want people to eat less meat, we need to create laws to ensure that animals are raised more freely and have proper fodder and grass instead of all that GMO stuff. Their meat would be healthier and the price would be higher so we would eat it less often.

  9. avatar
    Hélène Miller

    Thank you for the debate. Mrs. Paulus, I appreciate your input but I’d like to highlight that Aleph Farms, like all the other cultivated meat companies, does not plan to use any animal-derived ingredient (i.e fetal bovine serum) in their growth medium. The medium is intended to reproduce the same cell environment as inside the animal and will include the same nutrients; amino-acids, proteins, sugars, vitamins; and growth factors found in the animal blood. Most of those ingredients will be isolated from plants, and part of them might be produced by yeasts. Happy to continue the debate.

  10. avatar
    Elisavet

    I am very much looking forward to it <3 our only chance for cruelty free meat!

  11. avatar
    Siegfried Kopler

    What happens to all the farm animals?

  12. avatar
    Olivia

    I d rather not eat lab meat. We are , as well as other species, part of the food chain . It s not unfair to eat animals, the same way shark isnt a murderer when eating flesh of any kind. But of course not one animal should be slaughetered more than those fiting the existing nutritional needs. WE DISPOSE THOUSANDS OF TONES OF MEAT. . THIS is murder to me, the wastefull oversupply and the awful conditions animals live until they become meat.

  13. avatar
    Elisavet

    I am very much looking forward to it! <3

  14. avatar
    José

    should you give that meat on EP to the comissioners and deputes, i should prefer peas and beans

  15. avatar
    Tony

    The more processed a food is the worse it is for you. I wouldn’t feed that crap to my neighbors dog. And I hate that dog.

  16. avatar
    Enric

    Beter a veal filet or entrecotte…

  17. avatar
    Candice Booyse

    Definitely! Less global warming, less cruelty. Im 100 percent behind this.

  18. avatar
    Antonio

    you can’t stop innovation and nobody say that rise animals will be illegal!
    In this way we can stop, reduce and regulate intensive farming!
    The world demand is huge so add a smart and safer alternative, perfect for the planet also, it won’t be a problem and it won’t lead to your imaginary scenario!
    Again you can’t sto the future!

  19. avatar
    Constantinescu

    Would you use lab made insulin?

  20. avatar
    Dionis

    Yes, but only free-range, grass-fed lab-grown meat. ;)

  21. avatar
    Dani

    I just don’t know yet if that would be really good. Too soon to say yes or no.

  22. avatar
    Jeroen

    If it is around 3 euros per kg, and tastes the same.. sure

  23. avatar
    Manuel

    I’s the same situation that the use of artificial sweeteners that are lab-made sugar.

  24. avatar
    Adam

    Yes and we need to start now! Yesterday was too late!

  25. avatar
    Amanda

    If it is vegan….bovine fetal serum…think that is a no for me.

  26. avatar
    Jan

    You forget that it wouldn’t be lab grown when it’s in production. That said, the only difference with current factory farms is the cognition of the protein and simplified manufacturing.

  27. avatar
    Arya

    Of course. It’s the only ethical meat.

  28. avatar
    Valentin

    Nope.I don’t trust GMO and chemical content in food.

    • avatar
      Tomislav

      everything is a chemical

    • avatar
      Valentin

      yes, but don’t get confused about the artifficial ones.

  29. avatar
    Georgia

    Yes, from a gluten free fed diet positive lab grown embryos.

  30. avatar
    David

    No way I love my cow meat and my fresh grown garden chickens or rabbits

    • avatar
      Constantinescu

      Julian Miranda yes, it came from trees

  31. avatar
    Bodis

    People who work 40 hours a week should earn enough money to feed themselves and their family with nutritious natural foods and to have a home. If you cannot, then you are indeed nothing but a slave.

  32. avatar
    Julian

    No. It is not natural if it came from a lab. This is just about profits. Nutrition is not about ethics. Nutrition is about good health and self-preservation. Just because humans have feelings and self-awareness about suffering or harm, it doesn’t change our biology. Humanity needs to use their intelligence to find more humane ways to rear animals instead of endangering human health and lives with lab food. As if we can’t see the damage caused to human health since humans started interfering with natural food and replacing it with processed chemical lab creations.

    • avatar
      Kristof

      humans started interfering with their food about 12000 years ago.
      It all went well up till now.

    • avatar
      Liz

      I think you already do it, but it’s not on label :)

    • avatar
      Julia

      so you are actually saying human beings replaced natural food with processed chemical lab creations 12,000 years ago. Interesting. Did they find a hot dog in a fossil?

    • avatar
      Julia

      so because ‘it’s not on the label’ of natural food, I am assuming you are referring to pesticides, antibiotics etc on the food normal people can afford — because only the rich can afford grass-fed, hand-reared and organic — you are suggesting we should eat 10,000 times worse lab-created food. Interesting. I will pass on that thanks and anyone with common sense will too.

    • avatar
      Pilar

      not. Eating chickens raised with antibiotics, etc…etc…

  33. avatar
    Любомир

    I would have no problem with it, as long as it is proven to have the same nutritional value as natural grown meat. And a similar price on the market, of course.

  34. avatar
    Franck

    This shouldn’t be allowed calling “meat”, just an ersatz, a lookalike, doesn’t contain a thousand of the many components of real meat. Just like vegi “milk”,”cheese*, aso.

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