Cultivated Meat & Seafood – Background

In this series, we explore traditional meat and seafood alternatives that represent an emerging food technology poised to change our foodscape.

Traditional meat and seafood alternatives: Cultivated meat & seafood – background

Maybe you've heard of lab-grown meat? Or perhaps, cultured meat? Maybe cultivated meat? How about clean meat? All of these labels represent an emerging food technology poised to change the foodscape. In this series, we explore traditional meat and seafood alternatives.

What are traditional meats and seafood?

All meats sold on the market come from animals like cows, pigs, and chickens born, raised, slaughtered,Subscribe for weekly updates_ butchered, and packaged for use and distribution. 
All seafood food on the market like fish, shrimp, and crab are either farm-raised or wild-caught, slaughtered, processed, and packaged for use and distribution. 
These are all traditional meat and seafood products because they follow a harvesting and production process we've been using for millennia. 

What are alternative meat and seafood products?

We have many plant- and fermentation-based alternative meat and seafood products available to us. These include Impossible Burger™, Beyond Burger™, faux chicken nuggets, faux fish sticks, etc. These products are typically vegan (meaning they contain no animal products) and instead use a wide variety of plant protein sources including peamung beanpotatosoy, and more. They have become widely available over the past 10-years.
This series focuses on emerging technology that will allow us to eat meat and seafood that doesn't require traditional harvesting and processing methods.

How does this new technology work?

Currently, scientists take specific cells needed to form familiar foods from land and aquatic animals and grow them outside of the animal under specialized conditions. 
In our next post, we’ll take a more in-depth look at the technology behind this food innovation.  

What do we call foods produced using this new technology?

Currently, the two most agreed-upon nomenclatures by scientists and industries are cultivated and cell-cultured meat and seafood. Both names accurately describe the production process. However, cell-cultured is more descriptive. 
While people may refer to seafood as cultivated, as it stands, cultivated and cultured are already used in a regulatory setting to describe seafood. So, seafood companies are using the term cell-cultured.
Calling the meat and seafood products created by these new technology's other names, such as clean-meat and lab-grown meat, doesn't accurately reflect how these ingredients are produced (1). 
While scientists and industries in the U.S. most commonly use cultivated and cell-cultured, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is taking comments to help the regulators create an accurate naming standard. The naming standard will impact how these meats and seafood are referred to when regulated, labeled, and marketed (1,2).
In this series, we will refer to the meat and seafood products as cultivated

Is it real meat?

Yes, cultivated meat and seafood is "real" " in the sense, that it’s made from animal cells. Therefore, it would also contain the same allergens as traditional meat and seafood.  
Meaning, if you're allergic to traditional chicken or crab, you will still be allergic to cultivated chicken or crab. 

Who will eat these cultivated foods? 

We will use cultivated meat and seafood the same way we currently use traditional meat and seafood. Since the end product is meat and seafood, cultivated meat and seafood may be on our dinner table or used in pet foods and treats. 
Regulations and safety standards for cultivated meat are in development to ensure it's safe for humans and animals to consume. 

Can any animal meat be cultivated?

We'll discuss the technology in a later post, but in theory, yes, cultivated meat can be grown from any animal source. The process doesn't necessarily require anyone to slaughter an animal to harvest the cells. Rather, scientists can obtain the cells from a simple muscle biopsy from mammals (1,2).
However, the process for seafood cultivation typically requires the animals to be slaughtered as gathering viable cells is harder underwater.  

Why are researchers, policymakers, and industries interested in cultivated meat and seafood? 

Cultivated meat and seafood represent an emerging area that can dramatically change how we eat with the potential to diversify our current food sources.
There are many potential health and environmental benefits of cultivating meat and seafood for the market (1). 
Health benefits can include improvements by removing the need for antibiotics used in farming practices, reduced potential for pandemic-causing diseases that can emerge from farms, and decreased risk for food-borne illnesses resulting from the slaughter, butchering, and packaging process.
Environmentally, we know current farming and harvesting practices are environmentally intensive and negatively impacting natural ecosystems. We know oceans are becoming overfished. Additionally, the demand for meat and seafood continues to rise with our growing global population (1,2). 
The addition of cultivated meat and seafood has the potential to help mitigate some of the health and environmental impact (1). 

Are they available now?

Currently, Singapore is the only country with commercially available cultivated meat. However, that will change as regulators across the globe review and put in place policies and safety standards for cultivated meat and seafood. 
We can anticipate cultivated meat and seafood available for sale in limited qualities in the U.S. within the next three years. 

Will it diversity food industries immediately?

No. The technology needs time to develop, be adequately tested and regulated, and then scaled for production. We are still many years away from cultivated meat expanding our current food landscape. 

The good news.

As with all food and agriculture innovation, scientists, regulators, and industry partners are working together to ensure safety standards are met while developing new ways of looking at food. In our next post, we’ll explore the technology that makes these foods possible


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