‘There’s a lot of unknowns’: Iowa agriculture leaders respond to USDA approval of lab-grown meat

The president of the Iowa Restaurant Association doesn’t think lab-grown meat will interest...
The president of the Iowa Restaurant Association doesn’t think lab-grown meat will interest most consumers in Iowa.(KCRG)
Published: Jun. 28, 2023 at 7:17 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - “I think we’re kind of in those very early stages of understanding what cell cultured meat looks like and there’s a lot of unknowns,” Kylie Peterson of Iowa Beef Industry Council said.

Lab-grown meat is something the Iowa Beef Industry Council has been watching closely.

But Peterson doesn’t think it will impact competition anytime soon.

“It’s almost impossible, in my opinion, to reproduce the diversity that meats provide, you know, different various species and breeds and cuts,” Peterson said.

That’s just what two companies are trying to do after the USDA approved Upside Foods and Good Meat to produce and sell lab-grown meat.

“We are trying to make the same food people have loved their entire lives a different way,” Eric Schulze, the Vice President of global scientific and regulatory affairs at Upside Foods, said. “We can grow a very large amount of muscle tissue from a small amount of cells and we feed them to people.”

Advocates say it’s a more environmentally friendly way to produce meat. But experts say there are still some questions to be answered.

“Can you grow them at scale with such numbers that it can compete with beef and fish or poultry?” Ricardo San Martin, Director of UC Berkeley’s Alternative Meat Lab, said. “And the answer based on well known principles of bio technology and fermentation... it doesn’t look very good.”

The companies behind lab-grown meat are testing their product out in restaurants in Washington, D.C. and soon San Francisco.

Jessica Dunker, the president of the Iowa Restaurant Association, says she’s not sure when lab-grown meat might come to menus here. She says she doesn’t think it will interest most consumers.

“I don’t think that Iowa restaurants will be early adapters of this particular protein, particularly given that when you look at Farm to Table, we are Farm to Table and we always have been,” Dunker said.

She says chefs often have a close relationship with farmers.

“The really high-end chefs a lot of times visit the farms and really understand where the food is coming from,” Dunker said. “All of that relationship goes away when you’re growing food in a lab.”

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