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Could plant-based meat open up space for lab-grown varieties?

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Consumer reluctance is not the only hurdle ahead for cultured meat pioneers. They will also need approval from regulators, and production costs remain high.

THIN LEI WIN: Sales of plant-based meats have soared during the pandemic as customers shift diets due to growing unease about factory farming, working conditions in meat-packing plants, and suspicion over a possible link between wild animal meat and COVID-19… Greater concern about such issues may have fueled demand for soy sausages, bean burgers, and other plant-based meats during global coronavirus lockdowns. Between March 21 and June 20, sales of fresh plant-based meat in the United States were up by triple digits every week compared to last year, according to non-profit The Good Food Institute (GFI) which analyzed data from market research firm Nielsen…

ORF Genetics and other firms hope that means more people will want to try their lab-grown, cell-cultured meat when it becomes available in the next year or so, though high costs and doubtful consumers could mean “clean meats” – as the nascent industry calls them – take longer to gain acceptance… ORF Genetics is growing barley here to produce “growth factors” – one of the most important, and costly, ingredients in laboratory-grown meat… “This technology – taking a stem cell and turning it into meat – will have a huge impact on the environment,” according to Bjorn Orvar, co-founder and chief scientific officer of ORF… “Because then you will reduce land use so much. And you will really reduce the emissions and water consumption. … This will also make local food production much easier,” he said…

Still, for many consumers, moving from soy- or mung bean-based burgers to steak or seafood grown from animal cells is too big a leap. Consumer reluctance is not the only hurdle ahead for the cultured meat pioneers. They will also need approval from regulators, and production costs remain high… Proponents of cell-cultured meat often highlight the enormous potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with intensive livestock farming. Others, however, caution that cultured-meat production would need to minimize energy use and avoid fossil fuels in order to be a truly climate-friendly alternative. Globally, rearing livestock accounts for about 14.5% of planet-warming emissions, according to the United Nations, and land used for agriculture is a major driver of deforestation. SOURCE…

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