Home Food and Beverage trends news From prediction to production: A timeline of cultivated meat

From prediction to production: A timeline of cultivated meat

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From prediction to production: A timeline of cultivated meat


Cultivated meat started as something out of a sci-fi blockbuster. Now, it’s a reality being served up in select restaurants, with the potential to hit grocery shelves one day. 

The idea of producing meat in a lab was first discussed in the 1950s, when Dutch researcher Willem van Eelen, called one of the “godfathers of cultured meat,” came up with the idea. Even before then, however, Winston Churchill hinted at the idea in his 1931 essay, “Fifty Years Hence,” as he questioned the need for an entire chicken just to eat the breast or wing when these parts could be grown, “separately by a suitable medium,” he wrote.

Now, with the USDA having issued grants of inspection to Upside Foods and Eat Just, it’s clear that Churchill and van Eelen’s ideas are no longer pipedreams. With this final authorization, cultivated meat is now entering the US market. 

Meanwhile, in late July, Aleph Farms — an Israeli cellular agriculture company — submitted the first ever application for cultivated meat in Europe as they look to enter the Swiss market. 

But elsewhere, in Italy for example, regulation has met some difficulty. The Italian Senate recently passed a bill banning cultivated meat.

“Italy, which is the world leader in food quality and safety, has the responsibility of leading the way in health and environmental protection policies” said Ettore Prandini, president of Coldiretti, regarding the bill.

Aleph Farms may see success in Switzerland since the Swiss generally have a a high affinity for innovation and progress and “74% of Swiss consumers are open to trying cultivated meat and are motivated to try it chiefly by curiosity and a desire to align with principles like sustainability and animal welfare,” the Aleph Farms release said.

Free range calf on an organic farm

SolStock via Getty Images

 

In June 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service  issued new directives and a notice regarding the regulation of cell cultured food. With the publication of these new documents, there is a bit more clarity on how USDA-FSIS plans to execute regulatory obligations in this space.

Consumer sentiment evolves

Not only have there been major breakthroughs when it comes to the regulation of cultivated meat, but within the consumer mindset, as well. 

Based on studies from 2017 to 2019 that asked (in nearly identical ways) about consumers’ “willingness to try” cultivated meat, just one in five respondents were not willing and more than 60 percent were, according to research from the Good Food Institute.

In 2021, the same question was asked and revealed similar results, with one in five again not being likely to try cultivated meat, but this time 80% being at least somewhat likely to try, the research said. 

“Companies’ ability to sell products in Singapore and the U.S. is a big win both because it gives regular people a chance to try the products and start having their own conversations and developing their own visions of what the future of meat could look like as well,” said Claire Bomkamp lead scientist of cultivated meat & seafood at the Good Food Institute in an email.

Cultivated meat, alternative protein

A shot of a female farmer preparing a medical injection for a free-range Aberdeen Angus cow.

SolStock via Getty Images

 

So, how did the industry get from a sci-fi like prediction from Churchill in the 1930s, to a $330,000 burger in 2013, to the USDA giving the green light on inspection grants? 

“I would say in general that cultivated meat is a field where progress is pretty incremental, with one thing building on another, rather than in discrete steps or breakthroughs,” said Bomkamp.

With more to come on the regulation front for the evolving space, Food Dive takes a look back at a comprehensive timeline of the cultivated meat and seafood industry:

March 2002: NASA scientists grow fish filets in a tank

As a means to find an alternative food source for astronauts, NASA scientists concluded that it would be possible to grow meat on demand, without slaughtering fish or animals. 

August 2013: World’s first lab grown burger is cooked and eaten

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