‘​​So far, the clean meat industry has proven more adept at churning out optimistic timelines than it has at offering consumers an alternative to meat from animals’

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Credit: Gates Notes
Credit: Gates Notes

So far, the [clean meat] industry has proven for more adept at churning out optimistic timelines than it has at offering consumers an alternative to meat from animals. 

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It turns out that mimicking the complex biological processes that generate what eaters know as meat is mind-bogglingly difficult, and massive technological hurdles to doing it at scale remain. Rebecca Vaught, founder of Van Heron Labs, a biotechnology company that works with medical and cell-meat companies to streamline their cell-growth processes, argues the engineering challenges associated with cultured meat “are nearly on par with the engineering challenges with taking a man to the moon.”

The regulatory caveats aren’t trivial, either—these novel products have yet to pass muster with the US Food and Drug Administration and agriculture department, which in 2019 agreed to jointly oversee regulation of cell meat. 

Excitement about cell-based meat may be flourishing. But the gap between current aspiration and ultimate achievement is not a notion you’re going to find spelled out on a press release heralding the imminent debut of lab-grown chicken nuggets at a restaurant near you. 

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Related article:  ‘Meat: It's still what's for dinner.’ Can popular plant-based burgers really displace beef?
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