There are numerous start-ups around the world engaging in lab-grown meat production. Locally, we have two such companies, The Mzansi Meat Company and Mogale Meat. According to a report by McKinsey the market for cultivated meat could reach $25 billion by 2030. The acceptability of lab-grown meat has been slowly growing but is, arguably, a long way away from becoming mainstream. But there have been some big strides. Singapore became the first nation to approve the commercial sale of cultivated meat while in November 2022, the US FDA declared lab-grown meat safe to eat. Another such stride occurred in January 2023, when Israel’s Chief Rabbi, David Baruch Lau, ruled that lab grown beef could be considered permissible to eat by Jewish people i.e kosher. Rabbi Genack, New York-based CEO of the Orthodox Union, one of the world’s largest kosher certification authorities, disagrees. The other question that this raises is whether or not lab grown swine products can be considered halal (permissible according to the rules of Islam) or kosher.
Why is it important?
Animal agriculture contributes 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions according to the United Nations so it makes a difference how protein is produced. Cultivated meat companies aim to produce meat ethically and sustainably and to address the growing problem of food insecurity. The UN predicted that food demand is set to increase by at least 59% between 2005 and 2050 when the global population is expected to hit 9.7 billion. The declaration by Rabbi Lau represents a significant shift – it is the first time that a religious leader has endorsed lab-grown meat. “This a huge step forward, and a very important milestone if we want to provide food for the next generation,” says Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of cultivated meat company, Aleph Farms.
What can businesses do about it?
Lab grown meat is yet to be declared legal in the majority of countries around the world. It is still a nascent technology that is yet to scale. But it is likely that it will become a more mainstream meat alternative in the medium term. KFC Russia experimented with lab-grown chicken in 2020 but the company has said it is not part of its global long-term strategy. Businesses in the food service sector should keep a close eye on this trend when planning for the future. You should seek to understand and adapt to changing consumer mindsets around sustainable consumption as many are increasingly looking to make environmentally and ethically conscious choices with regards to the food they eat. Also, consider how religious norms interact with emerging technologies and how this will impact your business. The religious ramifications of lab-grown meat will continue to be explored in the next few years.
By Faeeza Khan
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Image credit: Victoria Shes