Will Lab-Meat Get Cheap Enough to Buy?

July 9, 2018 09:08 AM
 
The cost of lab-grown burgers have fallen much faster than anticipated—and it can now compete on price with beef.

First, it was ground turkey masquerading as a hamburger. But new technology has pushed the burger market into a whole new era. Now, there’s plant-based options, blends of meat and mushrooms, and lab-cultured meats that don’t require animal production at all. The first “clean-meat,” or protein produced from animal cells without an actual animal, might be in restaurants by the end of 2018.

In it’s early stages, many farmers and ranchers dismissed these products, thinking the price or taste will never be able to compete with traditional beef burgers.

But times, they are changing.

The first lab-grown burger cost $325,000 in 2013, reports Fast Company. By 2015, the cost had dropped to less than $12. Mark Post, a Dutch researcher who created the burger, thought it would take another two or three decades for the burger was commercially viable.

The Israel-based startup Future Meat Technologies aims to begin selling its first products later this year. The startup’s costs are still high—around $363 per pound. But it thinks it will cut the cost to about $2.30 to $4.50 a pound by 2020.

While costs are dropping, questions are mounting. How will this emerging industry be regulated? On July 12, the Food and Drug Administration will hold a public meeting entitled “Foods Produced Using Animal Cell Culture Technology.” The meeting will allow members of the public to provide comments on food production utilizing animal cell culture technology.

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