PARIS: You might not like the idea of eating meat grown in a lab, but would you agree to give your dog kibble made from this kind of meat?
The question seems anecdotal, especially at a time when Europe has not authorised the commercialisation of cultured meat products, unlike Singapore or the United States, where the introduction of cell-cultured chicken got the green light last summer.
At a time when the Italian government has once again reaffirmed its desire to ban cultured meat, a Czech company has gained EU registration, validating its research and giving it the latitude to roll out its project on a larger scale, as spotted by Green Queen.
The start-up is called Bene Meat, and it doesn’t make burger patties or chicken fillets for nuggets, but meat to feed our four-legged friends.
The Prague-based laboratory currently produces just a few kilos of meat, but with this registration, production could increase a hundredfold. And it’s not just a science-fiction scenario, since this goal could be achieved as soon as next year.
The last few years have seen the emergence of new ranges of dry and wet food for dogs and cats, in line with the new dietary habits of their owners.
There’s vegan pet food, as well as organic and, more recently, insect-based food. So why not lab-grown meat too?
Beyond the authorisations that this type of food will have to obtain to actually end up in a dog’s bowl, it will above all have to convince owners of its dietary benefits for their pets.
Last June, an Ipsos study revealed that 49% of French cat and dog owners look for foods that focus on perceived health benefits for their pets.
The other issue is price. In one year, between March 2023 and one year previously, kibble prices jumped by an average of 18%, according to NielseniQ figures. Buyers may therefore look to cultured-meat-based kibbles for a more affordable alternative.
However, the projects that have actually materialised today to develop cultured meat that could be consumed by a human being are extremely costly, due to the use of fetal bovine serum, which is essential to activate cell multiplication.
The challenge for this new sector is not to demonstrate that meat can be produced in a lab, but rather to reduce production costs.
To this end, the many start-ups around the world that have entered this niche are taking a keen interest in the development of synthetic foetal serum, which avoids the use of the controversial original product, harvested from bovine fetuses taken from pregnant cows during slaughter.