The Dutch pioneered lab-grown meat. Why can’t they eat it?


My cravings for meat are well-known to regular readers (hi mum!). But as a self-righteous vegetarian, I refuse to dine on murdered animals. Those beliefs, however, are now being challenged by a heretic: cultivated meat.

Cultivated meat, also known as cultured meat, brings the farm to the lab. Cells are collected from an animal, grown in vitro, and then shaped into familiar forms of edible flesh.

Industry advocates proffer myriad benefits — and needs. According to the UN, around 80 billion animals are slaughtered each year for meat. This livestock produces an estimated 14.5% of global greenhouse gasses, grazes across 26% of Earth’s terrestrial surface, and uses 8% of global freshwater.

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Population growth will eventually make these numbers unsustainable.

Cellular agriculture, argue its supporters, can dramatically allay the damage. The produce can satisfy our need for protein (and desire for meat), reduce our carbon footprint, and prevent animal suffering.

CE Delft, an independent research firm, estimates that cultivated meat could cause 92% less global warming and 93% less air pollution, while using 95% less land and 78% less water.

The nascent sector could also become big business. Consulting firm McKinsey predicts the market for cultivated meat could reach $25 billion (€26 billion) by 2030.

It’s not like meat — it is meat.

The sector has developed rapidly since the world’s first lab-grown burger was unveiled in 2013. The patty cost an eye-watering $330,000 to produce. Chefs described it as edible, but not delectable.

One of the scientists behind the project was Daan Luining. The affable Dutchman went on to found Meatable, a cultivated meat startup based in Delft. The company claims its produce is identical to traditional meat.

“It’s not like meat — it is meat,” Luining tells TNW.

Luining (right) and his Meatable co-founder Krijn de Nood describe their products as "the new natural."