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Our Society

How Could Cultivated Meat Affect our Society?

Cultivating meat holds the potential to impact the economy, global food security, and human relationships with animals.

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Economy

When cultivated meat becomes commercially available, it could significantly change our agricultural system. These changes would probably occur gradually.

Wide-scale production of cultivated meat would create a new industry and jobs, and displace some jobs. Depending on the degree conventional meat is in demand, farmers may continue raising livestock, switch to other agricultural products, or move into new industries.

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Grants and Subsidies

Several governments have provided limited funding for cultivated meat research. These include Singapore, New Zealand, the United States, the European Union, Iceland, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

Government subsidies are sometimes used to support emerging sustainable technologies (electric cars, solar power). It is possible that in the future, support through research grants and government subsidies could  promote cultivated meat production.

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Food Security

Cultivated meat could increase access to meat across the globe. Meat can be cultivated anywhere, which could support regional or local food economies.

In the beginning, cultivated meat will be inaccessible to many, as it will be only available in select locations at a high price. However, if cultivated meat reaches price parity with conventional meat and becomes widely sold, this could increase food security.

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Food Horizons

Meat cultivation could make it possible to expand our regular food repertoire to include uncommon or specialty meats, including those not (yet) within our cultural norms.

Meat from endangered species can be cultivated instead of hunted. This has the potential to help decrease poaching and protect endangered species.

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New Meat Types

Cultivated meat production could expand our daily food choices, making specialty meats, like Wagyu beef or bluefin tuna, more accessible around the world.

Without the need to farm or hunt animals, people across the world could eat a bigger variety of meats. Instead of hunting endangered wild animals for their meat, hides, or tusks, wild animal meat and materials could be cultivated.

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Reliance on Animals

Cultivated meat could shift our food system away from animal farming over time. However, conventional animal farming is unlikely to disappear.

Meat cultivation would decrease the need for animals in our food system. This could change humanity’s relationship with farm animals. We may transition away from breeding billions of farm animals every year, but this transition would be slow.

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Our Society 101

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Economy

When cultivated meat becomes commercially available, it could significantly change our agricultural system. These changes would probably occur gradually.

icon society w1.png

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Wide-scale production of cultivated meat would create a new industry and jobs, and displace some jobs. Depending on the degree conventional meat is in demand, farmers may continue raising livestock, switch to other agricultural products, or move into new industries.
gradient box.png
icon society 4.png

Grants and Subsidies

Several governments have provided limited funding for cultivated meat research. These include Singapore, New Zealand, the United States, the European Union, Iceland, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

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Heading 4

Government subsidies are sometimes used to support emerging sustainable technologies (electric cars, solar power). It is possible that in the future, support through research grants and government subsidies could  promote cultivated meat production.
gradient box.png
icon society 2.png

Food Security

Cultivated meat could increase access to meat across the globe. Meat can be cultivated anywhere, which could support regional or local food economies.

icon society w2.png

Heading 4

In the beginning, cultivated meat will be inaccessible to many, as it will be only available in select locations at a high price. However, if cultivated meat reaches price parity with conventional meat and becomes widely sold, this could increase food security.
gradient box.png
icon society 5.png

Food Horizons

Meat cultivation could make it possible to expand our regular food repertoire to include uncommon or specialty meats, including those not (yet) within our cultural norms.

icon society w5.png

Heading 4

Meat from endangered species can be cultivated instead of hunted. This has the potential to help decrease poaching and protect endangered species.
gradient box.png
icon society 3.png

New Meat Types

Cultivated meat production could expand our daily food choices, making specialty meats, like Wagyu beef or bluefin tuna, more accessible around the world.

icon society w3.png

Heading 4

Without the need to farm or hunt animals, people across the world could eat a bigger variety of meats. Instead of hunting endangered wild animals for their meat, hides, or tusks, wild animal meat and materials could be cultivated.
gradient box.png
icon society 6.png

Reliance on Animals

Cultivated meat could shift our food system away from animal farming over time. However, conventional animal farming is unlikely to disappear.

icon society w6.png

Heading 4

Meat cultivation would decrease the need for animals in our food system. This could change humanity’s relationship with farm animals. We may transition away from breeding billions of farm animals every year, but this transition would be slow.

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Economics

Cultivated meat may transform our current food system—but any changes will likely occur gradually.

Innovations like fermentation, refrigeration, and pasteurization have altered the trajectory of our approach to food in the past. Similarly, meat cultivation will likely significantly change our current food system if cultivated meat becomes as affordable as conventional meat.

The global population is expected to grow to 10 billion people by 2050. In addition, rising average income in low- and middle-income countries will increase demand for meat.   Meeting 2050 protein demand will require a diversification of protein sources. Cultivated meat may help bridge the gap and become a meaningful protein source in our food system.

Wide-scale production of cultivated meat would create a new industry of jobs.

Once the product reaches the market, the emerging field of cultivated meat could evolve over time into a bustling industry. The growth of this industry will open up new jobs in the sector, whether in production, sales, distribution, regulation, quality assurance, marketing, and more.

At the same time, we may see a very gradual shift or loss of jobs in the industrial animal farming sector, especially in slaughterhouses/meat packing plants. However, this depends on the degree to which cultivated meat takes up a share of the conventional meat market. Due to projected population growth and rising average income, the growth of the cultivated meat industry will likely not immediately displace conventional, industrially farmed meat, but rather will help satisfy increasing global protein demand, in conjunction with other meat industries.

There may always be a demand for conventional meat. Farmers will continue raising livestock or may opt to switch products.

Even after cultivated meat is widely sold at an affordable price, there will likely still be a demand for conventional meat and other animal products. Conventional meat will presumably continue to have a place in the market, and agricultural jobs will always be needed.

Should cultivated meat take up a large portion of the future meat market, many farmers who produce livestock feed might grow the same crops for glucose in the growth media (feed for the cells). Or, farmers might shift the type of crops they grow, if different crops are better for feeding cells rather than animals or to grow fruit, vegetables, or grains for direct human consumption. Slaughterhouse and processing plant workers might move into other industries where their skills are needed, such as manufacturing.

Some farmers have already chosen to convert their operations from conventional animal agriculture to other agricultural products. For instance, a farmer might switch from broiler chickens to hemp and mushrooms, from dairy to crops, or even from raising animals to crops for plant-based milk. Currently, nonprofits and businesses are supporting farmers in making these types of transitions. However, government support of farmer and rancher transitions would accelerate market transitions, and make it easier for farmers to adapt.

Just as farming jobs have changed over the past few decades, it is likely that farming jobs in the future will look different than they do today. For instance, in the future, animal agriculture facilities may raise fewer animals to reach higher welfare standards. This may mean that the farmers can choose to focus on the quality of the meat, rather than the quantity—a stress that farmers have had to endure in the last few decades of soaring meat demand.

These changes would probably happen very slowly, likely over a period of decades. Any shift resulting from the introduction of cultivated meat into the market will be gradual, rather than dramatic.

Grants and subsidies

Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture supports meat production through subsidies for crops grown to feed livestock. As times change, government subsidies are sometimes used to support emerging technologies (e.g., electric cars and solar power have seen some modest government subsidies). It is possible that in the future, the U.S. or other governments may subsidize cultivated meat production.

The U.S. National Sciences Foundation has provided research grant funding for cultivated meat research at UC Davis’ and the US Department of Energy has provided research funding to Tufts University.

Governments in countries besides the U.S. are already incentivizing cultivated meat production. For instance, the government of Singapore has provided both financial support for research and development of cultivated meat    and tax breaks for Singaporean cultivated meat companies in the spirit of Singapore’s self-sufficiency goals.   The New Zealand and Singapore governments have funded a multi-million dollar research grant on cultivated meat that will investigate nutrition, cell sourcing and plant protein-cell interactions.   Additionally, the European Union research and innovation program Horizon 2020 provided €2.7 million in research funds to a Spanish cultivated meat startup,   €2.5 million to an Icelandic cell culture media supplier,   and €3 million to a cultivated meat startup in The Netherlands.    In Belgium, €2.1-million in funding has been provided by a government agency to two universities developing cultivated meat.

Only time will tell how government support for cultivated meat might affect conventional meat production and its subsidies.

Food security

Cultivated meat could increase access to meat across the globe.

In a food secure world, all people would have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food.    Currently, our world has a high degree of inequality in terms of food security, as shown in this interactive globe. Cultivated meat production is one strategy that could increase global food security. In the beginning, cultivated meat will be inaccessible to many because it will be only available in select locations at a high price. However, if cultivated meat reaches price parity with conventional meat and becomes widely sold, this could increase food security.

Cultivated meat may make it possible to produce meat more efficiently with fewer natural resources and much less land, potentially increasing global food security.   Cultivated meat can be produced anywhere where there is access to cropland or transportation networks, power and water. Its production could provide an important source of protein for people who do not have access to land suitable for growing crops or livestock. As our climate experiences weather events that affect livestock production (such as droughts), cultivated meat production facilities might offer a more reliable method for producing protein.

Cultivated meat may promote local food production and consumption.

Cultivated meat production facilities can be built almost anywhere. Unlike animal agriculture, they do not require as much land or a specific type of weather. Smaller-scale facilities could be built within towns and cities, decreasing the amount of transportation, distance, and time between the production and the consumption of cultivated meat. Larger-scale facilities may be built in strategic locations that best serve specific regions, but it might be more efficient for facilities to be located in warmer climates near cropland. Future cultivated meat production will likely operate at various scales and locations.

Food horizons

Cultivated meat production can make specialty meats more accessible around the world.

Meat cultivation could make it possible to expand our regular food repertoire to include uncommon or specialty meats.

The cost of cultivating different types of meats could vary less than conventional meats and seafood do. This could mean that a wider range of gourmet meats are available and affordable for more people.

Additionally, we can cultivate meat from many kinds of animals, appealing to the cuisine of different cultures. Some species might not be (yet) deemed culturally normal for consumption, but could offer an entirely new cuisine to various regions across the globe.

Instead of hunting endangered wild animals for their meat or materials, these products can be cultivated.

These expanding horizons could be beneficial for wildlife conservation efforts, as well. Meat from endangered species can be cultivated instead of hunted. This could help decrease wildlife poaching and protect endangered species like shortfin mako shark (for shark fin soup) or Atlantic bluefin tuna.

In the future, valuable non-edible parts of endangered animals could also be cultivated, such as elephant tusks and rhino horns.

Reliance on animals

Cultivated meat production will involve very few animals.

A small number of animals are needed to source cells.

With meat cultivation in its research and development stage, the most common method for obtaining cells is to take a small, harmless biopsy or skin sample from a healthy living animal. Some researchers might also collect cells from animals slaughtered for conventional meat (which could be a requirement for obtaining starter cells for kosher- or halal-certified products). However, even if cells are sometimes sourced from slaughtered animals, the cells would likely be taken from an animal already slaughtered for conventional meat production.

Most importantly, once production occurs at large scale, starter cells will generally be sourced from cell banks, rather than from animals. These banks will house a variety of species and cell types suitable for cultivating different products.

Animals will not be needed to produce growth media.

Another area of concern for animals is the use of fetal bovine serum (FBS), which was used in early research and development because viable alternatives were not yet available. However, only animal-component free growth media will be used in cultivated meat production because FBS is expensive, carries the risk of contamination, and does not offer a consistent nutrient composition.

Cultivated meat could gradually reduce our reliance on animal farming.

Cultivating meat could gradually reduce our reliance on animal farming. Overall, if cultivated meat displaced a significant amount of industrially farmed meat in the food system, this would drastically reduce the number of animals slaughtered for food.

However, even if cultivated meat is widely sold at an affordable price, changes to the food system would occur very slowly. It is likely that there will always be some degree of demand for conventional meat. In time, the use of industrial animal production systems could decrease and farmers could choose to focus on the quality of the meat and the living conditions for the animals, rather than the quantity.

If our food system shifted to include cultivated meat as a key protein source, we can foresee that this could shift our relationship with animals: we simply won’t “need” them as much as we used to, nor as many of them as we used to.