Cultivated meat lab meat

The FSA is seeking to fast-track and green-light novel foods, which is an indication the UK is getting serious about its role in alternative proteins – and specifically the cultivated meat revolution.

This is something to be celebrated. Investing in food tech will have positive impacts for generations to come, and will further support the UK government’s ambitions to become a global tech superpower.

By 2040, cultivated meat is projected to make up 35% of the global meat market. Until now, regulation has been holding back the UK’s potential. Now the FSA is following the path of progressive regulators like those in Israel, the US and Singapore, all of which have already approved cultivated meat for sale and consumption.

Being the first to market in Europe has the potential to bolster national prosperity, while attracting investment and talent within the burgeoning biotech space. In fact, it could add £2.1bn to the UK economy, found an Oxford Economics report – creating more than 16,500 jobs, including 8,300 highly skilled roles, by 2030.

This regulatory move also shows the UK is serious about establishing a sustainable food industry. Look at what cultivated beef has to offer. Once scaled and available to consumers, studies show it can reduce greenhouse emissions by up to 92%, land use by up to 94%, and fresh water use by 76% compared to industrial beef farming. This can make a big impact, as traditional animal farming is responsible for up to 14% of man-made greenhouse emissions.

This is not about replacing traditional farming. The UK has some of the best farming practices in the world, and our farmers should be celebrated. Creating cultivated meat in the UK, on home soil, would simply mean less ‘industrially farmed’ meat will need to be imported from abroad, boosting our food security.

The UK imports around £7.7bn of meat per annum, some of which comes from countries with lower animal welfare practices and a higher carbon footprint. Tackling that carbon footprint will be integral to brands and supermarkets who have ambitious net zero targets.

That’s not to say once we have regulatory approval, cultivated meat will hit supermarket shelves and it’ll be a case of problem solved. The major challenges include scaling, cost and consumer understanding, then adoption. The good news is, companies in the space are making great progress to overcome these hurdles.

Take consumer adoption. While it is assumed consumers will be averse to eating meat made in such a new way, the opposite has actually been found to be true in independent studies. Once they’re informed about the environmental, health and animal welfare benefits and understand the process involved, many consumers are open to trying cultivated meat, and envision it playing a role in their diets in the future.

As you can expect, this willingness is higher among younger consumers in Gen Z (88%) and millennials (85%), but there is a growing number of baby boomers who are willing to try it too (72%), according to a study published in MDPI. Consumer education, after regulation, will be key in ensuring cultivated meat becomes a mainstay in our diets.

Then we come to cost. When cultivated meat was first introduced as a concept 10 years ago, it cost an astronomical amount – £230,000 for a hamburger patty. Each year since then, the price has dropped with technological advancements. The price of a cultivated beef patty now is around £9. That’s still high, but just as we’ve seen with other integral climate innovations – such as solar panels and electric vehicles – once scale is reached, adoption has increased and technology advances, the costs to the consumer dramatically reduce.

In summary, cultivated meat is a true win-win proposition. Consumers want it, the planet needs it, and the UK economy will benefit from it. We can now look forward to the FSA partnering with the industry to deliver on this food evolution.