The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) made news last week when they approved the commercial sale of two California-based companies’ lab-grown meat. But, registered dietitian and author, Diana Rodgers, has a warning for potential consumers.
“I’d rather eat my shoe than lab-grown meat,” Rodgers stated in an interview with the New York Post. Good Meat and Upside Foods are now approved to sell chicken created from animal cells in the United States. This marks the U.S. as only the second country in the world to allow the commercial sale of lab-grown meat.
Many are left wondering what nutritional value this meat holds compared to traditional meat, a question that Rodgers has yet to find answers to. “We just don’t know,” she told the Post. Adding, “I have yet to see a life cycle assessment on the production of it. We don’t have any public data.”
The companies involved have sent out some information on their product, claiming their lab-grown meat is made from animal cells, salt, and a base of soy and wheat. A spokesman for Good Meat told the Post that their product is protein-rich, had “essential amino acids,” and was antibiotic-free. However, they were unable to provide a nutritional label because the product is not yet bound for grocery stores.
Upside Foods, as well as Good Meat, offer a document detailing how their product is made. But, Rodgers points out that this process is very different from traditional meat. She explains that the product is “taking mono-crop plant sources, taking them into a factory, and using high-energy processes to convert them into meat.”
The decision made by Italy to ban the sale of lab-grown meat did not go unheard. This is to protect its traditional food heritage, according to the BBC. The companies that offer the product argue that their product is more environmentally sustainable than the traditional meat you find in farms and ranches.
A preprint study released in May, and yet to be peer-reviewed, states this lab-grown meat may in fact be worse for the environment than traditional meat. But, this product would cost upwards of $20 per pound when it eventually hits store shelves.
Good Meat and Upside Foods are forging forward in the lab-grown meat industry — with the backing of the USDA — but Rodgers is standing firm on her warning. Customers should keep in mind the lack of available information and hold off on making an educated decision until more details arise.
Rodgers was sure to state that this product is not vegetarian, either. It is cultivated from actual animal cells, incubated, and grown into masses of meat in the lab, then cut and made to look like traditional meat. It is not to be confused with plant-based “meat” products such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
The USDA has given the green light, and the decision is now in the hands of the consumers. Lab-grown meat is a product that needs to be taken seriously and researched before consumption, according to Rodgers.