Fresh From the Lab
China has signed a trade agreement with Israel worth $300 million that will see the country import lab-grown meats produced by three companies: SuperMeat, Future Meat Technologies, and Meat the Future. This move is part of China's ongoing effort to address its most pressing environmental problems.
The Israel Innovation Authority and the Israel Export Institute were involved in brokering the deal with China. Both organizations were in attendance at the inaugural lab-made meat conference, which took place in Haifa, Israel this past May.
Israel is emerging as a major player in the nascent lab-grown meat industry, but plenty of research is also going on in the US. Memphis Meats recently received investments from Sir Richard Branson and Bill Gates, while Hampton Creek expects to sell its products commercially as early as next year. Even mainstream brands like Tyson foods are making plays to get in on the ground floor.
This particular kind of lab-grown meat is produced using animal cells, so it's not completely slaughter-free — even if it does reduce the number of creatures killed for food overall. Scientists are researching a completely synthetic substitute. For the time being, lab-grown meat is poised to at least reduce the strain on the environment that's caused by the farming of livestock.
It's estimated that 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to livestock, with cattle being the biggest culprit. If we didn't need to farm so many cows to produce beef products, we could reduce these emissions considerably.
Last year, he Chinese government announced plans to encourage citizens to eat less meat, in an effort to reduce the country's consumption by 50 percent. As it stands, around $13.5 billion worth of meat is imported into the country every year.
While $300 million may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to $10 billion, there are hopes that this partnership will be successful enough to prompt a larger investment. “This could put [lab-made] meat onto the radar of Chinese officials who have the capacity to steer billions of dollars into this technology,” commented head of the Good Food Initiative, Bruce Friedrich, according to a report by Quartz.
Lab-grown meat is also cheaper and healthier than traditional meat. It may take a while for the general public to get on board, but it seems like its advantages will soon be too much to ignore.