Whoa! China just signed a $300 million “clean-tech” trade agreement deal that would allow them to import Israel’s lab-grown meat technologies. As of now, there are three Israeli food technology firms, SuperMeat, Meat the Future, and Future Meat Technologies working to replace animal-based protein with “clean” meat, which could mean a major leg-up on developing animal-free meat for China.
This is a great sign for lab-grown meat technology and a much needed proactive approach. Israel’s technology economy is considered by some to be second only to Silicon Valley.
It seems like nations are finally starting to wake up and change their views on meat and dairy in the wake of impending challenges to feed the world’s growing population without exhausting our already limited resources. Just last year, the Chinese government released a new set of dietary guidelines that have the potential to see the country’s consumption of meat drop by 50 percent. The Chinese Ministry of Health, the government body responsible for health care services and guidelines for health-related laws and regulations, is urging citizens to limit meat and egg intake to only 200 grams daily (China’s per capita meat and egg consumption total out to around 300 grams per day). With this monumental “clean-tech” deal, we are thrilled to see China spearheading a sustainable solution to factory farming.
Many people don’t realize this, but industrialized animal agriculture is one of the major drivers of global climate change. Considering that The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent, lab-grown meat offers a viable alternative to this destructive industry. Additionally, the factory farming system occupies around half of the world’s arable land and uses a majority of our freshwater resources. Despite the massive inputs to produce cheap meat and dairy, nearly one billion people currently suffer from hunger across the globe. As the population continues to mount to 9.8 billion by 2050, we simply won’t be able to sustain more people eating a diet high in animal products.
Naturally, the first step to building a more sustainable food system starts with consumers eating less meat and dairy – but there is a large percent of the population that will likely never give up their bacon cheeseburgers, which is where lab grown, or “clean” meat, can fill in the gaps.
Bruce Friedrich, head of The Good Food Institute, which works to support the development of meat alternatives, explained that China’s acquisition of Israel’s technology is a ” colossal market opportunity.” Further, he told Quartz, “This could put [lab-made] meat onto the radar of Chinese officials who have the capacity to steer billions of dollars into this technology.”
According to the International Trade Centre, Chinese meat imports were valued at more than $10 billion in 2016, which means that meat alternatives have a massive market to intercede in the country. China also currently imports beef from the U.S., so if they are able to replace their domestic demand for meat with clean meat alternatives, it would not only have a positive impact in China but would also minimize the demand for cheap factory farmed meat in the U.S.
Memphis Meats, a U.S.-based clean meat company recently received $17 million in investments from sources including Cargill, Richard Branson and Bill Gates, so there is a very real possibility that we could see a commercially viable product on the market within the next five to ten years. Hopefully, this additional push from China will help advance this technology and do away with factory farming within our lifetimes.
More on the Future of Meat
By now, we’re guessing you probably have a lot of questions about how clean meat is being made – and we have some good news, in a recent episode of #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias, Bruce Friedrich, the Executive Director of the Good Food Institute (GFI) and founding partner of New Crop Capital, explains exactly how it can be done.
In the episode, Bruce dives deeper into the research that is being done in the food tech space to make clean meat possible and discusses the specifics related to how companies and scientists are creating plant-based proteins that can perfectly mimic meat.
Image source: Memphis Meats/Facebook