Italy's government's recent move to ban lab grown meat production, research and development has brought the country at odds with global trends. Other countries around the world are investing heavily in supporting lab-grown meat production, research and development, while Italy has taken a different approach in a supposed effort to protect the country's agri-food culture.
Scientists warn that the bill could set back innovation in the country for years to come. The ban would effectively put a stop to the development of lab-grown meat products, which have been seen as an important step forward in achieving more sustainable and ethical sources of food production.
The move has sparked criticism from many voices in the agricultural and science communities, who argue that Italy's efforts could be setting back innovation and progress in the sector. In this blog post, we will discuss the draft bill, what it could mean for Italy, and Believer Meats' perspective on why cultivated meat is here to stay.
Italy's Cultivated Meat Ban Intends to Protect its Food and Culinary Heritage
Earlier this year, Italy's government approved a draft bill that would effectively ban lab grown meat production, research and development. The bill proposes a ban on all experimentation, production, marketing and sale of meat, including meat substitutes and additives produced through animal cell cultivation.
The bill would also require a label indicating that "the product obtained from this foodstuff does not derive from the ablation of living animals".
The bill's intended purpose is to safeguard Italy's food and culinary traditions, promote public health, and support the national agricultural industry. It was proposed in response to a petition started by the Coldiretti farmers' association, which gathered almost 500,000 signatures against the use of synthetic foods.
Under these laws, animal cells could only be used in food if they came from a slaughtered animal. This would effectively stop research into cultivated meat and other lab-grown products, which are seen as a potential alternative to conventionally-grown meat.
What Exactly is Cultivated Meat?
Not long ago, few people were aware of the efforts that engineers and scientists around the globe were making to manufacture meat without harming animals. Today, the cultivated meat industry has captured the attention of the media, governments, investors, and conscious consumers eagerly awaiting their chance to enjoy slaughter-free meat. Now, the cultivated meat market size is estimated to reach $2788.1 million by 2030.
Growing lab grown meat traditionally involves taking stem cells from animals and allowing them to replicate in a petri dish or a stainless-steel bioreactor. At Believer we chose a different approach. We use fibroblast cells instead, because fibroblasts are far more stable and replicate faster than stem cells, allowing us to make more meat, faster and at a lower cost than our competitors.
One problem that cultivated meat companies are facing is that animal cells have a finite lifespan, requiring a steady supply of animal products to produce meat. Believer solved this problem by allowing its cells to spontaneously immortalize without any genetic modification.
Believer cultivates these non-GMO cells in bioreactors without any animal ingredients into a dense biomass, the key ingredient in cultivated meat production.
Once the biomass reaches ideal density and volume, it is taken out of the bioreactor, separated from the nutrient-rich medium, and combined with other ingredients to make it look, feel, and taste like conventionally-grown meat.
Italy's Banning Cultivated Meat Receives Pushback from the Science Community
Scientists, particularly in Italy, are concerned that the ban on lab-grown meat could set back innovation in the country for years to come.
They argue that lab-grown meat has huge benefits for the environment, health, and animal welfare, and that Italy risks losing out on these benefits. Scientists also believe that the ban will discourage investment in research and development, as well as the growth of new start-ups.
According to Nature, Italian scientists have protested the ban, citing the potential benefits of cultivated meat. The publication reports that "cultured meat could ease environmental pressures and reduce animal suffering" and that the ban "appears to have been driven by a misguided view that cultured meat is not natural."
Some industry experts share this sentiment. TechCrunch reports that the ban "could set the industry back," and that cultivated meat has the potential to "revolutionize animal agriculture" by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and land use.
The ban has also been criticized for being anti-innovation and limiting consumer choice. Food Navigator notes that the ban extends to lab-grown meat, cheese, and fish, a move that could deter innovation in the food industry.
Cultivated Meat is Here to Stay
The global demand for meat is projected to increase substantially in the coming years as population and incomes grow. However, there are no sufficient environmental resources, like land and water, to meet this growing demand.
Cultivated meat (or lab grown meat) has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of meat production, improve food safety and animal welfare, and provide a sustainable alternative to conventionally-grown meat.
Lab grown meat can help meet this increasing demand for protein while also providing a more sustainable and ethical meat production system.
An additional advantage of cultivated meat is that it is produced in a controlled lab environment, eliminating many of the food safety risks associated with conventionally-grown meat. As lab-grown meat production won’t involve animal slaughter, it would significantly reduce the risk of passing animal-borne diseases like influenza to consumers.
Cultivated Meat's Future Relies on Tastes and Accessibility
While cultivated meat has many environmental, food safety, and animal welfare benefits, this impact will be mainly driven by people that crave lab-grown meat and are able to afford it.
It is true that cultivated meat (or lab grown meat) is not yet widely available. But it already tastes like the real thing, because, well, it is made from the real thing. We already can make delicious cultivated meat without slaughtering an animal.
We and the cultivated meat industry just need the time and resources to ensure that our technology continues to improve, so the cost of our delicious meat is on par or even below that of conventionally-grown meat. And that is why we hope Italy changes course and sees the safety, benefits, and opportunities of cultivated meat.
Italy's effort to ban lab grown meat production, research and development is at odds with global trends and could potentially leave the country years behind in this exciting, burgeoning cultivated meat industry.
We believe that the demand for meat will continue to rise and lab grown meat is a sustainable and ethical solution to conventional meat production. We understand Italy's desire to protect its food and culinary heritage, but strongly believe that cultivated meat will not hinder that heritage, but rather add to it.