Lab meat labelling will determine future growth

Meat analogues, such as lab-grown meat and plant-based meat alternatives, have the potential to help tackle climate change and improve health, but the growth of the market will depend on policy decisions that must be taken urgently, according to a new report.

A briefing paper by the think tank Chatham House found that interest in meat analogues from innovators, investors and the public is rapidly growing, boosted by celebrity endorsements from the likes of Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The authors noted the potential for meat analogues to meet the world’s growing demand for meat while dramatically scaling back on high impact animal agriculture, but cautioned that decisions taken now by policy makers on the regulation, labelling and marketing of meat analogues will have a significant influence on the industry’s direction and pace of growth.

The development of meat analogues has come amid growing awareness of the environmental impact of rearing livestock for food, along with increasing evidence of the link between excessive levels of meat consumption and diet-related health issues.

The latest analogue products are different from traditional meat alternatives such as Quorn because they are aimed at meat-eaters as well as vegetarians or vegans and are “designed to achieve an unprecedented degree of mimicry that enables consumers to continue experiencing the sensory pleasures of conventional meat”, according to the authors.

Cultured meat is grown in vitro from animal-derived stem cells using a growth medium, while plant-based meat products use natural molecules such as heme to replicate the texture and taste of animal-derived meat.

The first commercial products such as the Impossible Burger are already being served in restaurants, but the authors said the growth trajectory of the market would depend on a number of factors including public acceptance, civil society support and incumbent industry responses.

In particular, they said that decisions on labelling requirements for meat analogues would be important in determining consumer acceptance of plant-based meat and cultured meat as substitutes for animal-derived meat.

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