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Pioneering UK Interdisciplinary Study Will Track Impact of Cultured Meat on Society – vegconomist

Proponents of cultivated meat argue that it has the potential to feed the world sustainably and ethically, thus positively affecting the planet, human well-being, and the welfare of animals. Nevertheless, there are still uncertainties surrounding its large-scale production and the potential wider consequences on society and the environment.

To shed light on these questions, a new interdisciplinary study brings together experts from law, sociology, and biochemical engineering to track the impact of cultivated meat on society. 

The research, selected for an APEX Award, is funded by the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Society with support from the Leverhulme Trust.

John Hopkins College Studnents Alt Protein
©Jacob Lund – stock.adobe.com

A study with multiple tasks

The new interdisciplinary research project aims to identify and mitigate potential risks associated with the broader availability of cell-based meat.

To do so, the researchers will assess the technical aspects of production, such as cost and energy requirements, waste disposal (an unanswered question), and the environmental impact. It will also consider potential threats to farming jobs and explore how the law can protect people when cultured meat is exported between countries.

Other planned activities include interviews with cultivated meat industry experts and workshops with members of the public and potential consumers to incorporate diverse perspectives. The study’s results will be shared with scientists, policymakers, and the general public. 

Ivy Farm / Fortnum & Mason scotch egg
Courtesy of Ivy Farm

Cultivated meat in the UK

The UK is emerging as a global leader in the cultivated meat industry, with at least 23 companies operating in this sector. A recent UK ecosystem review by the Good Food Institute Europe highlights the country’s dominance, revealing that in 2022, cultivated meat companies attracted more private investment than the rest of Europe combined.

The GFI’s review also emphasizes the government’s commitment to fostering this innovation, with the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) investing more in cultivated meat than in other categories (plant-based and fermentation) in recent years.

In addition, the UK government has invested £12 million in the cultivated meat research hub CARMA and has released a National Vision for Engineering Biology plan with a £2 billion budget to seize the potential of biotechnology, including cultivated meat, signaling a growing interest on the technology’s potential for food security and the economy.

According to Ivy Farm and GFI, the cultivated industry could significantly increase the UK’s food security and reduce the country’s reliance on imports. Additionally, it could contribute up to £523 million in tax revenue and provide £2.1 billion to the economy by 2030.

Regarding acceptance, 34% of UK consumers say they would be willing to try cultivated meat, and even the country’s conventional animal agriculture industry is researching to see whether it could benefit from the technology.

Ivy Farm spaghetti dish
© Ivy Farm Technologies

Other studies on cultivated meat

Similar studies on cultivated meat include a white paper by the UK bioprocessing company CellRev, The Future of Commercial-Scale Cell Manufacturing, highlighting the challenges and opportunities faced by the cellular agriculture industry.

report by the British think tank the Social Market Foundation has also investigated the potential of alternative proteins, including cultivated meat, in reducing meat consumption in the UK.

It is worth mentioning a project investigating UK farmers’ views on cultivated meat led by teams from the University of Lincoln and Royal Agricultural University (RAU), revealing complex opinions on the topic. 

Senior Lecturer in Animal Health and Welfare at the RAU, Dr. Lisa Morgans, commented on the study’s  findings: “To ensure disruptive technologies like cultured meat are developed in an ethical and responsible way, it is essential that we engage with, and include, farmers in the research process.”

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