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Is Lab Grown Meat Either Vegetarian Or Vegan?

As someone who enjoys cooking, this one was a head-scratcher. It seems the FDA inched a step closer to approving what’s commonly called ‘lab meat’ for human consumption. Lab meat is the term used for a meat product that is wholly-grown in a laboratory, so I guess the name fits. Officials and food sellers prefer the term “cultivated,” but what difference does it really make?

On November 16, the FDA made history by determining that the lab meat created by the California-based company Upside Foods is safe to eat. But is lab grown meat vegetarian or vegan? Neither. The protein products are not vegan or vegetarian because they are in fact an animal-based product (cultivated from chicken cells apparently). Still, many environmentalists are applauding, because it lab meat is less cumbersome to produce than, ya know, real animals.

Upside Foods claims that cells from one chicken are grown in a lab and can be turned into the same volume of food that would otherwise require hundreds of thousands of farmed chickens.

While the Food and Drug Administration determined the food is safe to consume, it is not on store shelves…yet. Before that can happen, the facilities where the lab meat is made has to pass an inspection by the US Department of Agriculture. Singapore was the first country to approve lab meat, which it did in 2020.

Lab meat is biologically identical to the conventional meat we are accustomed to eating. Upside Foods hopes to give consumers their first taste by selling it to restaurants before introducing it in grocery stores. All of this is likely to take several more months at least.

Question is, do we have an appetite for it? I love to cook, but while lab meat might be healthy for the product, who knows whether consumers will be ready to sink their teeth into cultivated meat.

The success of lab meat will likely depend on its taste and texture. If all goes well, we could see more products like this. Other companies are scrambling to use the same or similar methods to make steak and seafood along with poultry, all in a laboratory.

TIME Magazine reported that a blind taste test was done to measure whether there was a discernible difference between conventional and cultivated meat. An internationally known food connoisseur, who is also a professional taste-tester, failed to pick out the lab grown chicken from a naturally raised chicken.

The FDA is only concerned with the safety of products and how manufacturers are creating them — not how well they stack up against the real thing. Now that this first lab meat has passed muster, many more companies are expected to follow suit in the hopes of getting the same safety stamp of approval.

Safety concerns aside, lab-grown chicken should serve as a healthy protein. Although there is already speculation that food science will enable manufacturers to also manipulate traits in the lab, like cholesterol and saturated fats, tweaking them to make the meat “healthier.” Who knows what, exactly, they’ll bring to the consumer in terms of real nutrition.

How all this ends up, I guess we’ll soon find out. I just hope, like many mystery meats, that this does indeed end up tasting like chicken.

What do you think?


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