Clean meat chicken
Sliced Southern Fried Chicken from Memphis Meats produced using cell cultures

LAS VEGAS — “I love what I do. What I do is I make meat.”

So declared Eric Schulze, Ph.D., a participant in “Clean Meat: Producing Meat Without Animals Using Cell-Culture Technology,” an enthusiastic panel discussion June 26 at IFT17, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Las Vegas.

Eric Schulze, Memphis Meats clean meat
Eric Schulze, Ph.D., senior scientist at Memphis Meats

Dr. Schulze is a senior scientist at Memphis Meats, Inc., a San Francisco-based start-up company. His presentation was preceded by an overview of the clean meat field by moderator Liz Specht, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Good Food Institute, a not-for-profit organization established to support plant-based and cellular alternatives to animal products. Several companies, including Memphis Meats, are working to introduce “next-gen meat,” produced with no animal agriculture, animal raising or slaughter, Dr. Specht said.

Numerous factors are catalyzing investment in this new technology, she said.

Headlining this list are sustainability and resource use concerns, she said. Animal agriculture is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions globally, and the growth of meat intake intensifies competition for resources between the world’s affluent and the world’s poor, Dr. Specht said. She cited a United Nations report expressing concern over the role of animal agriculture as a contributor to deforestation, water pollution and air pollution, locally and globally.

Health concerns associated with animal agriculture have been on the rise because of bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Liz Specht, The Good Food Institute, clean meat
Liz Specht, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Good Food Institute

“The age of antibiotics may be coming to an end in part because of low-level delivery to animals,” Dr. Specht said. She cited data indicating 75% of new diseases affecting humans over the past 10 years originated with animals.

Animal welfare has become a greater and greater concern in recent years, issues rooted in the inefficiency of meat production. For example, restricting the movement of animals to make meat production more efficient makes economic sense but has raised concern among the public.

Dr. Specht described issues of meat production as a “thermodynamic problem.”

“Most of an animal’s energy goes to metabolic functions, mechanical, respiration etc., not to producing meat,” she said. “The question is whether we can remove the animal from the picture and do this more efficiently.”