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US cattle producers condemn lab-grown meat plan for military

James Nason, 11/06/2024

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in the US has condemned a US Department of Defence sponsored research grant that will fund the development of lab-grown meat products.

“It is outrageous that the Department of Defense is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to feed our heroes like lab rats,” said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane.

His comments follow news reports that BioMADE, a public-private bio-manufacturing consortium sponsored by the US Department of Defence, has released a funding call for alternative protein projects.

The project involves matched investment of up to US $2 million to develop sustainable food production innovations that reduce the CO2 footprint of food production, which include production of nutrient-dense military rations via fermentation processes and novel cell culture methods suitable for the production of cultivated meat/protein.

Successful projects are expected to begin in February 2025.

‘Feeding our heroes like lab rats’

“It is outrageous that the Department of Defence is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to feed our heroes like lab rats,” Mr Lane said.

“US cattle producers raise the highest-quality beef in the world, with the lowest carbon footprint – and American troops deserve to be served that same wholesome, natural meat and not ultra-processed, lab-grown protein that is cooked up in a chemical-filled bioreactor.

“This misguided research project is a giant slap in the face to everyone that has served our country.

“Our veterans and active-duty troops deserve so much better than this.”

On a visit to Australia earlier this year, the immediate past president of the NCBA raised direct concerns about the potential for lab-grown meats to take a bite out of beef’s current market share.

Lab-grown meats aim to capture 20pc of blended meat market

Addressing the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association conference at Alice Springs in March, South Dakota rancher and lawyer Todd Wilkinson said cell-cultured proteins posed a prospective threat to Australia’s beef exports to the US.

Todd Wilkinson

“They’ll take the cells out of one of your cows and put them in a bioreactor like a beer vat and dump a bunch of goop in there and generate meat cells,” he said.

“In the Netherlands I listened with a Harvard graduate and she said the goal of her company is to capture 20 percent of the meat blended product.

“You (Australia) produce more meat than you can eat. My country brings in a lot of your lean meat, we need your 90s, your grinding beef.

“And the girl who stood up on that stage said she is not worried about replicating chicken – they reproduce too fast, not economical – so she is focused on beef and pork primarily.

“What is going to happen is if they take this goop and they can put it into ground beef, and if they can take that and make 20 percent of the grind, some of you won’t be here economically because you’re going to be out of business.

“That is how big a deal this is.”

He said the manufacturers promote being able to produce meat in labs without killing an animal.

“We can grow this crap in beer vats and feed the world – if that doesn’t scare you I don’t know what will.

“Meat without slaughter, meat without ranches, meat without you.

“Cell cultured goop and the animal activists are running the show on the world stage.

“Our goal is to bring the biggest meat producers across the world together and go in and fight on the world stage where we have been not nearly active enough, this is a big deal folks.”

“This is squarely facing you in the next 5 to 10 years. When JBS pours $75m into  a plant in Spain that is supposed to be online in the middle of 2024 making this product, it is real, the big dogs are now in it.

“When the very packers that we sell to are already seeing the writing on the wall and understand that there is this challenge out there, we’re a little late, we’ve got to get in the game and push back on this.”

US and Aus cattle bodies unite on lab-grown proteins

At a Rural Press Club of Queensland breakfast during Beef 2024 in Rockhampton in May, Cattle Australia president Garry Edwards and NCBA president Mark Eisele signed an agreement uniting uniting the voices of both organisations on key issues impacting producers in both countries.

Mark Eisele and Garry Edwards

The statement directly addressed the emergence of lab-grown proteins.

It noted that while there are no lab-grown proteins that imitate beef currently authorised for retail in the US, several companies are attempting to bring the products to market.

“It is critically important that these products are properly vetted by regulatory authorities so they do not pose a potential risk to consumer health and food safety, and it is important that they are labeled in a way that is transparent to consumers so they can choose between naturally produced beef and lab-grown proteins,” the statement said.

“Additionally, the statement supports efforts to continue sharing information on cattle industry sustainability and promoting the benefits of cattle production such as improving wildlife habitat, natural water filtration, and greenspace protection benefits.”

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