A challenge to vegetarians or carnivores?
Vegetarianism has been around for centuries, with an estimated 2% of the UK population taking this lifestyle choice – the majority being teenagers. Surrounded in debate, Vegetarians often argue the terrible ethics involved, lack of necessity to eat meat and improved health potential of not, as reasons for ending their ‘carnivorous ways’. This is often countered with arguments of an evolutionary predisposition, expense, difficulty to remain in good health or sometimes the simple, smug ‘it tastes nice’. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, the CEOs of Just Inc. have begun to create a new debate altogether.
Founded as Hampton Creek in 2011, Josh Baik and Joshua Tetrick created a plant based food company, inspired by problems each had noticed in the global food system. Josh Baik used his background – a senior position in a US farm animal division – to respond to a gap in the food market, creating tasty but ethically considered foods. Receiving mass funding from interested entrepreneurs, the two set to work. Their first result was ‘Beyond Eggs’, an egg replacement comprised mainly of peas and sunflower lecithin. Whilst this was a mild success, marketed as being free of cholesterol, gluten and animal products… it was only a foot in the door for what was to come. Following this with products such as ‘Just Mayo’, ‘Just Cookies’ and ‘Power Gari’ (a nutrient free porridge produced in West Africa to reduce malnutrition), Just have now revealed their most interesting product yet, ‘Clean Meat’.
Clean meat is ‘real meat’ that is created without the need to slaughter animals. The process involves harmless cell extraction, followed by cultivating the cells through nutrition. This allows them to multiply into a product that will resemble meat, and can be cooked and eaten. They’re attempting to market it as safer, better for the environment and more humane, and hope to have it in commercial sale by the end of 2018. But who is it for?
One would first assume it’s a product marketed for the Vegetarians of the world, a way for them to enjoy the so called ‘delights’ of meat whilst being ethically sound in doing so. On the face of it, that seems reasonable. It could lead to a mass decrease in environmental cost, and it allows for up to a 1 million to 1 reduction in animal livestock. With this in mind it seems unreasonable to suggest at least most of the vegetarian community won’t endorse it. As physiology professor Dr Mark J. Post suggests, “The pragmatic attitude…would be to accept the technology for its larger societal merit even if it is not a personal favourite solution to generalized meat consumption.” However what change will this make? The vegetarian community are not consuming or contributing to the meat market as it is…
It must therefore be a challenge to the meat eaters of the world. If this product is successfully cultivated and can create ‘real meat’ without the slaughter, will they buy in? Of course: it will be more expensive due to the production cost, it’s going to create economic problems for slaughterhouses and farms worldwide and it creates the whole paranoia of ‘eating lab food’. But is that a ‘trade off’ they are willing to make? Gone might be the arguments of health benefits, of taste, of evolution and it will come down to the simple fact of what are you willing to pay for slaughter. You can still have your meat, but is it worth the economic shift and expense to have it in a slaughter free way? Perhaps not, after all, if it is fully endorsed, what will the human cost be?
Still unreleased, we will have to wait and see what the world makes of it.