Turning cultured meat into the norm is the goal of Josh Tetrick and his company Eat Just. Just like physical CDs, which were pushed out of the market entirely by streaming services, he also wants to make meat from animals the exception to the rule.
In an interview with McKinsey, Tetrick makes the case that cultured meat will become the new norm - and possibly sooner than we think. "Stepping back, there are things that feel difficult to imagine in the present day that later become the normal thing, and it can happen more quickly than we realise. 15 or 20 years ago, some of the big car companies were pushing back a bit against the transition to electric cars. More recently, some have said they will only be making electric cars."
Last year, a restaurant in Singapore served cultured chicken from Eat Just for the first time, which was a world first. According to CEO Tetrick, the response was overwhelmingly positive. However, an increase in scale is necessary now: production must be expanded to the United States, Europe and China. The problem is that Eat Just is going into unknown territory: "Large bioreactors of 100,000 litres are not readily available. We have to build them from scratch, and that takes time and capital."
"We believe this is a better way of making meat safer, healthier, and more sustainable," says Tetrick, but that doesn't mean all consumers will think so. However, more important than perception is that cultured meat will eventually become cheaper than regular meat, which the CEO hopes to achieve in just ten years. For this to happen, though, the costs of raw materials and production must be reduced dramatically, he says.
Compared to meat from animals, cultured meat offers major benefits for the climate: it would emit 90 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions, use 45 % less energy and 90 % less water, and require 99 % less land. In addition, no animals would have to suffer, the risk of bacterial infections with cultured meat is significantly lower, and antibiotics are not needed.
According to Tetrick, the established food players can also play an essential role in the entire process. "We want to focus on what we're really good at. Meat companies are particularly good at cold-chain distribution into retail and into food service, and the conversion of a raw material into a number of finished products, and we see that relationship working out really well for us and for them."