MATTSPLAINED [] MSP73 [] The Case for Clean Meat

Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched @ Kulturpop

Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched @ Kulturpop

MATTSPLAINED [] MSP73 [] The Case for Clean Meat

Is it time to start feeding our meat addiction with a new approach? It ends up in a pan. Why not grow it in one? Advances in biotechnology, food processing and changing consumer demand are putting us on the cusp of a cultured meat and plant-sourced burger revolution. 

            

Produced by Richard Bradbury

            

Show Links:

 

·      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/03/clean-meat-lab-grown-china-india

·      https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-47724267

·      https://www.theverge.com/2013/8/5/4589744/cultured-beef-burger-public-tasting-mark-post-sergey-brin

·      https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ginkgo-bioworks-launches-motif-ingredients-with-90-million-series-a-financing-300802134.html

·      https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2019.00011/full

·      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/29/can-the-world-quench-chinas-bottomless-thirst-for-milk

  

Episode Transcript

 

These shows are dictated to and transcribed by machines, and hurriedly edited by a human. Apologies for the typos and grammar flaws.

 

Meat. A word that delights some and disgusts others. I probably only have to say the words ‘juicy burger’ for half of you to hit pause on this show and switch to your favourite food delivery app. 

 

Assuming you’re back and the food is steaming, have you ever considered how dirty that meat in your hand is? Matt has. But I’ve still no idea what he’s talking about.

 

You’re not supposed to marinade your steaks in the street, you know. 

·      That’s where all the flavour is! Or at least that’s what I keep being told about authentic street food.

·      Anyway, as they say: if it’s good enough for the flies…

·      Ok. This would be a very strange show if it was all about food hygiene.

·      Although, of course, that is an issue.

·      Things like chlorine washing to disinfect meat, not just because it has fallen on the floor, but because the meat itself is contaminated. .

·      That’s become something of a Brexit issue in the UK because it’s outlawed under EU rules but would likely be central to any trade deal with the US.

·      But we’re really talking about the bigger picture of meat and other animal products. 

 

We’re talking about technology and diet in a broader sense?

·      This is not an entirely novel subject for MSP.

·      Meat is a subject we have talked about quite frequently on the show over the years.

·      Especially when it comes to the things  we are now classing as clean Meats. 

 

Maybe you should tell us a bit more about clean meat in general?

·     You’re asking me to pander to people who don’t hang on my every word?

·     I’m not really enjoying this post Jeff world I’m finding myself in.

·     I’m hoping his attitude readjustment is almost complete.

·     You’re just far too high maintenance.

 

Clean Meat…

·     We’ve covered Laboratory-grown meat on the show a number of times.

·     In general, when I bring it up, it’s met with the chorus of revulsion.

·     In fact, I get more tweet feedback when we do a food show then anything else.

 

And you can find Matt on twitter @kulturpopup

·     You’re just mean.

·     When we’ve talked about lab grown meat in the past, listeners have found it a bit icky.

·     And that’s something that seems to be a global phenomenon.

·     People are okay with bopping a lamb on the head with a hammer but the idea of flesh and muscle tissue growing in a big industrial vat somehow grosses them out.

 

Because it doesn’t sound very clean…

·     When was the last time you saw a cow showering after futsal?

·     We have very different standards of personal hygiene.

·     We’re using clean in the green sense. And in the cruelty free sense.

·     So we’re looking at technologies that are enabling us to transition into a world where we can produce enough meat to satisfy people’s needs without chopping down all our forests and turning them into pasture lands. 

·     And filling the atmosphere with methane.

 

People do like meat.

·     I’m not even gonna go into the health side of things. 

·     That’s something people can explore for themselves.

·     We’ve built up this mythology that human beings are meat eaters.

·     Cats are meat eaters. Put a cat on a vegan diet what you likely to end up with is a seriously annoyed and very malnourished cat.

·      I don’t know how many of our listeners have experienced a seriously annoyed cat.

·     Imagine your life being nothing more than an endless scroll of Donald trumps tweets.

·     And you’re not even close to how miserable an angry cat can make you.

 

We’ve established that we’re not cats…

·     Correct, because we are omnivores and can manage perfectly well without eating tens or hundreds of kilos of meat per person per year.

 

You’ve stopped short of saying we don’t need meat…

·     We are adaptable. As long as you have a balanced diet…

 

That includes potato chips…

·     The potato is the source of all nutrition. As long as you fry it.

·     Humans can get along quite healthily with all manner of dietary input.

·     It’s one of the strengths that’s allowed us to colonise some of the most extreme landscapes on earth.

·     You can’t just go pull a cauliflower out of the ground in the middle of the Siberian winter.

·     And avocado toast is a little thin on the ground in the desert.

·     Despite those extremity, you’ll still find pockets of human civilisation in the craziest of places.

 

Before we look at some of the technologies that are transforming Global meat production – the things I have to say on this show – why is there such a pressing need to change the way we fill our baps?

·     It’s actually not just meat production.

·     It’s animal products in general. 

·     No one is sadder to say than I am, that My beloved cheese is also a serial offender.

·     Dairy is something we have to look at today, as well.

·     So, let’s look at China.

 

We’re not China bashing are we?

·     Not at all.

·     In fact what we’re looking at is something that is truly remarkable.

·     A convergence of nutrition and technology that has had an enormous impact on the population of China, and contributed significantly to the well-being of its citizens.

·     That brings us back to those basics in economics that I throw at you sometimes.

·     These things aren’t zero-sum gains.

·     There are costs and side effects related to the way we arrive at that state of well-being.

 

It’ll be interesting to see how you balance this one…

·     Delicately and like a water dancer.

·     Over 60 70 years China’s dairy herds have risen from 120,000 cows to 13m.

·     China has gone from a country that produced and consumed almost no milk to the world’s third largest producer.

·     China’s citizens eat around 30 kg of dairy products per person per year.

·      I know that sounds like a lot but the US consumes almost 300 kg per person.

·     Which is actually quite astonishing. It’s nearly a kilo of dairy product a day.

 

I think the US exports a lot of its dairy output…

·     Even still. It wouldn’t surprise me if the next series of stranger things contains a cheese-based lifeform.

·     Barbara reappears as a block of Monterey Jack. 

·     China’s government is using dairy as a strategic tool in the growth and development of its nation.

·     And dairy has been one of the tools in its Arsenal to address nutritional inequalities across the country.

·     Like any country that is rapidly developing, there are a huge distortion effects.

·     So, on the one hand you have meat and dairy as markers of societal progress and affluence.

·     People are wealthy enough to afford animal produce.

·     And on the other it’s being used as tool to literally enrich the lives of this poorest citizens.

 

Presumably the technology aspect of this is that China spear-headed the development of lactose free milk?

·      I was wondering when you were going to go there.

·     And, no, that’s not really the story of China at all.

·     But There is a scientific aspect.

·     Relatively simple and straightforward; one relating to human biology.

·     So while many East Asians may suffer from a Lactase deficiency, all babies are born with the ability to consume lactose, because we need mothers milk.

·     As long as you continue feeding the milk, in other words you don’t stop, in the body retain some ability to produce lactate.

·     So you don’t need lactose free milk, you just need to keep giving milk to kids with a lactase deficiency.

 

That’s human technology. It’s a bit boring.

·     But it’s cheap!

·     One of the things that are was encouraged in the 1980s was that Chinese smallholders keep small herds of cows to produce milk.

·     Over the years, more industrial scale dairy production has become the norm.

·     And the Smallholders have the option to move their herds into what the Chinese call cow hotels, where there are experts and technicians that can help them to make the most of their Moos.

 

That’s the upside. What’s the down?

·     China is set to triple its dairy production & consumption over the next 30 years.

·     And we see a similar pattern across the developing world.

·     As incomes increase, populations move from mostly plant-based diets towards diets that contain more animal derived nutrition.

·     For starters, dairy is very resource inefficient.

·     It’s estimated that it takes around 1000 L of water to produce 1 L of milk.

·     And cows are not environmentally friendly animals. 

·     Globally, livestock cancer around 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, of which are around two thirds are from our cow friends.

 

Cow friends?

·     I’m beginning to think you’re a bit of a bigot when it comes to animals.

·     You can eat a sheep but it can’t be your friend?

·     Anyway, China is already importing around 60% of the worlds production of soy bean, largely to process into feed to give to dairy stock.

·     To meet just its own demand, China will have to devote around 30% more land to dairy production we would likely see an increase in cattle-based emissions of around 35%.

·     Once you start to build that picture and factor in the world’s growing populations and income levels, the resources needed to produce beef or lamb or milk or cheese in the required quantities becomes simply unsustainable.

·     Especially when it’s claimed that the solution, the production of cultured meat Will occupy about 1% of the land currently devoted to meat to create the same output.

 

After the break: Matt in his garage, mixing meat. Here on MSP.

 

BREAK

 

Before the break, we told you that Matt would be making his own meat here on the show. Mercifully, this studio has a no-Ribs rule. So, we’ll skip straight to the solutions.

 

One of the stories I remember from a few years ago was the three hundred thousand dollar burger.

·     Yes. That’s really where poking meet movement broke into the public eye.

·     Although other that story in a second, this part of the show isn’t just about meats and technologies that can replicates cells.

 

Because nothing stimulates the appetite like your waiter telling you about the lab to table provenance of your replicated cells in pepper sauce. 

·     That’s one of the great ironies.

·     Farm to table is a fantastic trend.

·     Produce, whether animal or plant based, is locally sourced, so it doesn’t need to fly around the world three or four times before it reaches your plate.

·     You get a guarantee that the animals were raised in a loving, caring home.

·     But still, that animal was probably expecting to live out its days, munching happily in the field.

·     Wasn’t expecting to be staring up at you through a honey glaze.

·     So I don’t understand why people get so upset about the idea of making meat in a pot.

·     Surely that’s just the farm to table version of bak kut teh?

 

I think we have to know. Are you vegetarian?

·     Cards on the table. No.

·     And I do have a confession to make. 

·     Preparing the notes for this show, I ate a large and delicious piece of Haloumi.

·     As I’ve said on the show before, I’ve made a conscious decision to reduce my meat consumption over the last couple of years.

·     That’s for a number of reasons.

·      I wanted to reduce the impact of my own diet on the planet.

·     Also, I’ve found I feel physically better when I only eat meat a couple of times a week.

·     The less meat I eat, the less I seem to crave it.

·     None of this is scientific. It simply something that works for me.

 

Jordan Petersen, the Canadian psychologist and darling of the alt-right intelligentsia, claims to exist on a diet of nothing but beef. 

·     We agree to differ.

·     My wife is pescatarian and she’s had long periods where she’s been fully vegetarian and vegan.

·      I have more of an ethical problem with eating fish than I do with eating meat, but that’s an issue for another show.

·     But I have found that being fully vegetarian doesn’t work for me.

·     Probably because I’m too lazy to balance my diet properly.

 

Hence the comment about potato chips earlier.

·     Yes, I’ve been watching clips of one of President Trump’s economic advisers advocating a return to the gold standard.

·     I’d use another commodity. I’d have the world’s major currencies pegged to Pringles.

·     And you could genuinely eat your way through a fortune.

 

I don’t think the show’s going to get any better folks. Still, we have to soldier on. You were promising a story about an expensive burger.

·     When we talk about cultured meat, it feels like we’ve come a huge way.

·     And that might be true in terms of the technological advance.

·     In terms of the way the meat is cultured and grown.

·     The way that production has been scaled up.

·     And the way that costs have fallen.

·     But We don’t seem to have moved very far in terms of public perception and acceptance.

·     There’s still this sense that cultured meat is less real than a chicken nugget.

 

And you think part of that rests with those first public taste tests?

·     Maybe. Because even though journalists were able to eat a tiny part of the one burger patty that researchers at Maastricht University were able to produce.

·     It still seemed like a science-fiction fantasy.

·     Ignoring the comments about taste, the burger at That media session back in 2013 cost US$300,000 to produce.

·     It was viewed as a novelty. A not particularly tasty experiment.

·     And the journalists and the public went back to their lives.

 

Where is the impetus coming from?

·     Are influential lobbying groups like the good food institute, which are advocating for the adoption and development of plant based and cellular based food products.

·     In fact Bruce Friedrich, the founder of the good food institute, is one of this years fellows at TED.

·     So I think we can expect to see more content and more exposure of innovation in this sector in a news feeds this year.

 

You mentioned plant-based foods as well. You mean vegetables?

·     Vegetables get a bad rep for being boring, but we’re actually looking at something a little more high-tech.

·     A rising challenge has come from plant-based foods, especially in that all-important burger sector.

·     Companies like impossible foods and now competing head-to-head with meat-based burgers.

·     And it’s a sector that experiencing a year-on-year increase in consumer demand of around 17%.

·     There is some seriously large money to chase here.

 

To be fair, Veggie Burgers mostly deserve their bad rep…

·     Sure, many of them should have been declared hate crimes.

·     Especially from those forced to consume their dry and crumbly mix of processed peas and corn.

·     I’m sorry, but the last thing I want to see in any food is peas and sweetcorn. Or carrots.

·     And in a sign of their growing influence, companies like impossible are conducting tests with fast food giants Burger King.

·     So, from a technology standpoint it’s a really exciting sector.

·     Much more exciting than the shrinking bezels on smartphones.

 

I’m not sure if this is a gauge of actual popularity, given the horrors that these fellas often sink the money into, but the venture capital sector seems to be very excited about funding cellular based meat replacements.

·     A company called motif ingredients broke all the records in the food technology sector when they raised $90 million in series a funding in February of this year.

·     We’re used to silicon valley hype, and silly money chasing silly ideas.

·     Motif is certainly a serious venture.

·     It’s a spin-off from ginkgo Bioworks, which is something a giant in the field of synthetic biology.

·     And its backers include folks like Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Vinod Khosla. 

·     And it makes the company the largest player in a field that is now being called cellular agriculture.

 

I know no one wants to rush it. We need to know that these cell-derived meat products are safe. But a $300,000 burger is no use to anyone. When are we going to see results that are affordable and widely available?

·     That’s the $90 million question, isn’t it?

·     And No one really knows.

·     I’ll quote to good food institute’s Bruce Friedrich from the BBC.

·     He thinks we’ll get a first taste of cell-based meat in around 2020.

·     It will be a premium product. We can expect prices to be around UST fifty dollars.

 

That’s a lot for a burger…

·     Well, of late there’s been a growth in absolutely expensive premium burgers.

·     And $50 is no longer outside the norm. In fact, some fancy restaurants in the states have priced their burgers are up to $3000, which is absolutely insane.

 

Which, I guess brings us back to that question of demand. Is there any indication that the market will support Products at this kind of price?

·     Even the plant based meet alternatives marketed by companies like beyond making impossible foods are more expensive than their animal equivalents.

·     But as I said demand in that sector is said to be increasing at around 17% year.

·     And certainly meet producers seem to be running scared of competition.

·     There are the moves in a number of countries to prevent plant-based burgers being shelved next to your normal meat based burgers.

 

Given what we were discussing about China and countries in the developing world, is there a taste for these meat alternatives?

·     The evidence seems to be pointing in that direction.

·     A study called:

·     A survey of consumer perceptions of plant based and clean meet in the USA, India and China.

·     It’s no wonder no one reads these damn things. Call it real news, fake meat or something more clickbaity.

·     The study was published in the Journal frontiers in sustainable food systems in February this year.

·     Interesting it found that consumers in China and India were very receptive to the idea of lab-based meats.

·     Probably much more so than European consumers.

 

Given the price tag, you might not expect huge demand in those countries…

·     In a Guardian piece written by one of the study’s peer reviewers admits that it was largely middle-class consumers targeted in those countries for the study.

·     But that is still within the expected global profile of consumers of these products when they first come to market.

·     It’s those economies of scale and that expansion of popularity that will allow the prices to come down into these foods to be accessible to everyone.

·     Even in the hellraising, red meat loving United States of America, the study found that 53% of Americans with substitute cultured meat for traditional meat if the prices were equal.

·      I know it’s literally a lot to swallow.

·     But in a world of environmental consciousness, Health and well-being, it’s no longer enough to say that Your food was well treated and ethically sourced.

·     If there’s a kinder and more sustainable alternative.