Lab Meat - Petrie Dish - ©

Cultured Protein Makers Aim High – Attempt Wagyu

I feel vindicated. Sort of. Some time ago, I predicted that animal proteins would eventually become too expensive and too environmentally unfriendly to produce, and we would see them become high-end treats, made in  relatively small amounts by artisanal growers….

Beyond Meat Burgers - © Beyond MeatThe Beyond Meat Plant-based Burger is the way I expect the ‘meat’ industry
to go in coming decades. Unless cultured meats come strongly
into their own, and the price drops substantially…

Now, I hear that one of the U.S. firms pioneering development of lab-grown meats has signed a cooperation agreement with a Japanese Wagyu Beef grower to create a cow-free version of that exclusive commodity.

JUST (formerly Hampton Creek), Toriyama (a major producer of Wagyu Beef whose products are served around the world) and Awano Food Group are going to try to develop ‘cruelty-free’ Wagyu.

They plan to offer ‘ground’ Wagyu at first, which is the form in which cultured meat protein naturally comes. Other protein culturing outfits have already nailed the method by which regular Beef is cloned from real cattle cells and grown in a proprietary lab environment. JUST has thus far marketed plant-based Scrambled Eggs and is putting the finishing touches on lab-grown Chicken. So, their ultimate goal of producing traditional cuts of lab-grown Wagyu may still be years off.

And I’m wondering whether the cultured, ‘humane’ Wagu from JUST will cost more or less than he real off-the-hoof deal from Japan? The best price I’ve seen for Wagyu in the past couple of years was a special promotion from COSTCO of Wagyu Ribeyes at (US)$109. per pound / (US)$240 per kg. We’ll just have to wait and see on that one…

My take…

As I said off the top… I’ve long held that traditionally farmed and slaughtered meat products will eventually become the preserve of Artisanal growers and Boutique retailers. Only the rich will be able to afford to indulge. For the rest of us, there will be plentiful (we hope) Vegetable-based proteins to keep our bellies full, many I’m sure with the appearance of traditional ‘meat’ cuts. The middle ground will be occupied by the cultured ‘meat’ products. I don’t have a problem with them, except maybe for the price. Initially, at least, they’ll be as expensive as the finest Wagyu.

I’m placing my hopes on outfits such as Beyond Meat, which offer convincing meat-like products (mainly bulk Hamburger and preformed Patties) from Vegetable protein. They’re already being sold at competitive prices by health-conscious Fast Food chains like A&W, and fans say they can’t tell them from real Beef.

And don’t forget… Two or three generations from now, when traditional meat products have all but disappeared from mainstream supermarket coolers, kids growing up won’t know any different and will probably be content with just as content with Veggie protein-based foods and, maybe, the odd treat of cultured meat.

I can’t see me getting all excited about a Soy Turkey or a cultured Ground Turkey loaf in place of my traditional Holiday Feast Turkey. But I’ll most likely be dead by 2050, when traditional meat farming will be on the decline and these new protein sources will be coming into their own.

All I can say to the meat farmers of today is, make sure your kids learn how to grow Soy Beans and Corn…

~ Maggie J.