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Will meat be produced in vitro in the future?

INRA Prod. Anim. 26(4) 363-374

J.-F. HOCQUETTE¹, ², P. MAINSANT³ , J.-D. DAUDIN⁴ , I. CASSAR-MALEK¹, ², D. RÉMOND⁵, ⁶, M. DOREAU¹, ², P. SANS⁷,⁸ , D. BAUCHART¹, ², J. AGABRIEL¹, ²,W. VERBEKE⁹, B. PICARD¹, ²,

1 INRA, UMR1213 Herbivores, F-63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France
2 Clermont Université, VetAgro Sup, UMR1213 Herbivores, BP 10448, F-63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France
3 Académie de la Viande, 149 rue de Bercy, 75012 Paris, France
4 INRA, UR0370 QuaPA, F-63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France
5 INRA, UMR1019, Nutrition Humaine, CRNH Auvergne, 63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France
6 Clermont Université, Université d'Auvergne, UMR1019, Nutrition Humaine, BP 10448, F-63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France
7 INP-ENV Toulouse, 23 chemin des Capelles, 31076 Toulouse Cedex 3, France
8 INRA, UR1303 ALISS, 65 boulevard de Brandebourg, 94205 Ivry-sur-Seine, France
9 Ghent University, Department of Agricultural Economics, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

Abstract

The production of artificial meat by cell culture is suggested by some scientists as one solution to address the major challenges facing our society: (i) reducing potential discomfort of animals on modern farms or avoiding killing animals to eat them (ii) reducing potential environmental degradation by livestock and (iii) reducing world hunger by increasing protein resources. Artificial meat would indeed eliminate any animal “suffering” in farming systems and would avoid the slaughtering of animals to eat them. The environmental impact of artificial meat is difficult to evaluate due to the absence of references on production units. However, it may have a moderate interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution by nitrates, a limited interest for decreasing fossil fuel use or a very limited interest concerning water use, but it would make more land available. It may result in the presence of organic molecule residues in water. Nevertheless, many experts believe that the causes of the current malnutrition of some human populations are diverse, and not directly related to a lack of food resources. Although cell culture can be usually performed in laboratories, there are significant major technical difficulties to move towards a large-scale production as the prohibitive cost of current technologies and the lack of similarity of the obtained product with meat from animals. From a nutritional point of view, artificial meat has no particular advantage compared to another type of food made from all nutrients necessary for its production. The criteria for acceptability of artificial meat refer, first, to moral or ethical concerns about the technology and the worries it raises, and secondly, to usual food product concerns (price, quality, naturality, etc.). In the past, attempts to substitute animal proteins with similar products have failed due to economic constraints, the time required for potential product acceptance by consumers and permission to place the products on the market by public authorities. In conclusion, given the important challenges facing livestock, production of artificial meat does not present any major advantage compared to natural meat or to other options such as balancing human food supply by more diverse sources of plant and animal proteins, or developing friendly farming systems for animals and the environment. Technical, economic and social constraints, including uncertain acceptance by consumers of artificial foods, are indeed major limitations to the development of artificial meat.

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