Can petri dish meat cause cancer?

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The United States (US) beef industry has embarked on a campaign aimed at getting the manufacturers of “laboratory-cultured meats” to come clean on all their production practises.

Many of these products are due to become commercially available in the US over the coming months.

South Dakota-based, Amanda Radke, a blogger for BEEF magazine, addressed these issues courtesy of her presentation to this week’s Alltech ‘One 19’ conference, held in Lexington, Kentucky.

She said that the public must be made fully aware of the processes that are followed in producing these new meat alternatives.

“We already know of at least five points in the manufacturing process which require direct human intervention,” she said.

“This, in turn, raises the potential for contamination of the product and the possible use of antibiotics to address these challenges.

“People are also querying the cancer creating potential of these meats.

“We are talking about cell cultures that have been specifically grown in laboratories. So the question is: do these cells stop growing, once they enter the human body?”

Radke continued: “We need effective regulation of these new petri dish proteins. Effective labelling requirements must also be put in place.

“Beef farmers have committed large sums of their own money over generations in promoting and communicating the benefits of the meat they produce.

“The new laboratory meat companies must not be allowed to piggy back on this investment.”

Radke foresees the subject of alternative meats playing out as a major political issue in the US over the coming months with a number of 2020 presidential election candidates already involved in the debate.

She also takes issue with the claims made by the manufacturers of the latest generation of plant-based meat alternatives.

“Some of these are being portrayed as being direct alternatives for beef,” she stressed.

“This is absolutely wrong. Again, new labelling regulations must be introduced to put these matters right.”

Radke was brought up on a South Dakota ranch and continues to play a role in the family business.

She said: “The beef cow is an amazingly flexible animal. At a fundamental level she is converting forage, which humans cannot derive nutrition from, into an extremely valuable food.

“She is also helping to maintain ecosystems, which would be totally lost under any other form of land use management policy. The cow is also a source of numerous byproducts, including insulin, which are widely used by humans.”

Radke also stressed that laboratory meats cannot regenerate soils, adding:

“The manufacturing process entails the use of a wide range of natural resources. The sector has also a significant waste challenge to cope with.”

She concluded: “Production agriculture must engage with the public at large in communicating the tremendous benefits which beef cattle offer the food industry and the environment.

“The beef cow is a truly regenerative animal.”