Viewpoint: Energy-intensive production, contamination risks threaten to slow lab-grown meat development

| | February 28, 2020
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Lab-raised meat is unlikely to make rapid strides in the consumer market due to steep economic and technological hurdles, according to a prominent animal geneticist.

Though food companies would likely embrace artificial meat if it was cheaper to produce, manufacturing such products inexpensively remains a thorny problem and no company has yet solved it on a commercial scale, [said Alison Van Eenennaam, animal biotechnology extension specialist at the University of California-Davis].

Van Eenennaam said she’s skeptical the energy needed to operate bioreactor equipment and keep it at the right temperature would soon be cost-competitive, since animals perform such functions naturally.

“We already have a self-propelling, self-cleaning, solar-driven bioreactor known as a cow,” she said.

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It’s likely that artificial meat producers will rely on antibiotics, since the conditions in bioreactors will be ideal for the growth of undesirable microorganisms as well, she said.

For example, one experiment that involved growing a coat from artificial skin was hindered by an outbreak of mold, Van Eenennaam said.

“It emphasizes how difficult it will be keep everything pristine,” she said.

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