ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new Dutch company may have found a solution for environmentally conscious consumers struggling to abandon meat: pork grown in a laboratory that does not harm animals or the planet.
Meatable will present this summer its first pig prototype made entirely of cultured animal cells instead of slaughtered animals, according to its CEO.
Unlike other companies in the United States, Europe and Israel that compete to develop ecological "clean meat," Meatable pork does not use animal serum, a fluid derived from animal blood.
"We are trying to help solve some of the biggest challenges in the world … we don't just want to make one or two hamburgers, we want to change the world," said Krijn de Nood, whose company raised $ 10 million in seeds. December financing of investors, including the European Commission.
With a single cell from a live animal "in a completely painless way," Meatable can produce large batches of cells needed to make meat "in a matter of days to weeks" instead of months, the company said.
The technology was initiated by scientists from Stanford and Cambridge University and is based on a discovery about the manipulation of living cells that won a Nobel Prize in 2012.
Scientists and environmentalists believe that clean meat is a potential advance in the fight against climate change.
Livestock farming accounts for approximately 14.5% of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for a warming planet, according to the United Nations, and the land used for agriculture is an important driver of deforestation.
Companies like Aleph Farms and Memphis Meats are trying to produce beef and poultry by growing animal cells in a Petri dish and then in large bioreactors that resemble beer deposits.
Astronomical production costs have declined from an infamous laboratory-grown hamburger in 2013 that cost $ 280,000 to about $ 100 per kilogram of cultured meat.
But obstacles remain. US farmers are pushing for legislation that prohibits the use of the word meat to describe meat of plant or laboratory origin because "they are not derived from animals born, raised and harvested in the traditional way."
Production of meat grown with high energy inputs could also boost global warming in the longer term than some types of beef cattle if the world rejected a low-carbon route, said a 2019 study by the Oxford Martin School, based in the United Kingdom.
There is also competition from meat products of plant origin, which are improving their ability to mimic the taste and texture of meat.
De Nood, a former McKinsey consultant, said Meatable products are aimed at consumers who like meat but "are increasingly uncomfortable with the way it is produced."
It is a feeling that Nood is familiar with. "I've been eating less and less meat … but sometimes I just crave a hamburger," he said, laughing.
The company is focusing on the younger generations that feel strongly about climate change, he said, recalling a recent message he received from an investor.
He said: "My 13-year-old son has just abandoned beef since he has been reading about the impact of cows on climate change, and we have agreed that his next steak will have to be grown in a laboratory."
"I think that's our target consumer right there," said de Nood.
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