The contributors to this opinion piece from the Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation are: BlueNalu CEO and Co-founder Lou Cooperhouse; Finless Foods CEO and Co-founder Michael Selden; Fork & Goode Founder and CEO Niya Gupta; Just Head of Global Communications Andrew Noyes; and Memphis Meats Senior Manager of Communications David Kay.
When American shoppers fill their grocery carts — whether at the supermarket, farmer’s market or online — they have more choices at more affordable prices than virtually any other population on the planet. This good fortune is no accident. It’s the result of decades of public and private investment to support new innovation, a robust regulatory system and generations of hard work by resilient U.S. farmers and ranchers.
In fact, the men and women who grow food in the United States are among the most efficient in the world, leading the way in raising crops and livestock while using fewer resources than those in most other countries. Over the past half century, the output of America’s farms tripled, while the land and labor needed decreased by 24% and 75%, respectively, according to USDA.
As the world’s population and middle class expand, we’ll require more of this efficiency and innovation to fill a larger global appetite, especially for meat, poultry and seafood. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts meat consumption will rise 73% between 2010 and 2050, and producing that amount will be no small feat in the face of limited natural resources.
Already, events of the past year have clearly shown the world’s food production methods must continue to evolve. Last spring, record rainfall and flooding ruined the crops on 20 million acres of American farmland. Meanwhile, the highly contagious African Swine Fever virus sent global meat prices soaring after it spread to three continents and wiped out a quarter or more of the world’s pork herd.
Given these dynamics, there is no question that meat, poultry and seafood produced directly from animal cells — without the need to raise, feed and slaughter an animal — will have a significant place on future menus once the technology is brought to scale. Cell-based meat and seafood won’t replace conventional livestock production and fishing, but it will be an undeniably valuable part of the solution.
Already, American-made, cell-cultured meatballs, fish tacos, grilled chicken and more have been cooked by professional chefs and sampled in private kitchens, and they have drawn hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment. The U.S. is well-positioned to lead in what will be a global industry, as long as we foster this innovation and embrace consumer demand, not just in the U.S., but everywhere.
As world incomes rise, consumers will increasingly demand food that’s produced humanely and in an environmentally conscious way, and new methods will be needed to meet these and other challenges. In Asia — where 65% of the world’s middle class will live by 2030 — research shows there is already a strong appetite for cell-based meat and seafood.
Understandably, companies in several countries are racing to be first to land these products on everyday dinner plates and capitalize on this market, and the competition is hot. For example, a company in the Netherlands recently announced plans to bring cell-cultured hamburgers to Europe in 2022, and an Israeli company, Aleph Farms, is vying for placement in high-end restaurants next year.
While the U.S. has led the world in this innovation, we can't take our place for granted. Fortunately, the USDA and the FDA have been regulating food products for decades, including evaluations of new production practices, and their existing policies and procedures are largely applicable to cell-based meat, poultry and seafood. These two agencies are working together to establish a clear and transparent process for cell-cultured meat, poultry and seafood, which is an encouraging sign for the industry’s future here.
Other governments are hungry for the cell-based industry, too. Singapore, Japan and India have devoted public funding for further research, and the EU and Singapore have made progress on regulatory frameworks for cell-cultured meat, poultry and seafood sold there.
With this in mind, the burgeoning cell-based meat and seafood industry in the U.S. is banding together to secure strong momentum. Last summer, five companies — BlueNalu, Finless Foods, Fork & Goode, Just and Memphis Meats — formed the Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation, an industry coalition that advocates for a clear path to market for these products. AMPS Innovation has and will continue to work with lawmakers, regulators and the broader food and agriculture industry to spur our sector along.
We know the path exists. Two-thirds of U.S. consumers have indicated they are willing to try cell-cultured meat, poultry or seafood products, and meat giants like Cargill and Tyson have invested in the technology. As we enter a new decade, America has the opportunity to seize what’s before us and maintain our place in leading to feed the world. If we do not remain open to new innovation — especially in terms of food production — we risk losing valuable ground.