As industry begins to take off, Alberta researchers working on lab-grown meat

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“It’s unlikely it (cultured meat) will ever take over the market completely,” said Future Fields co-founder Matt Anderson-Baron. “There are always going to be people who will prefer to get their meat from an animal. But it is anticipated to capture a steady-growing share of the market over time. The most recent estimates are that somewhere around 10 per cent of the entire meat market will be captured by cell-based meats over the next decade.”

In fact, Anderson-Baron said that based on projections from existing cellular agriculture companies that already have products in various stages of development, it will likely be possible to buy lab-grown beef, poultry or seafood in some form or another within the next 18 months.

“That being said, these will be extremely niche products, in limited release. In terms of seeing a cell-based meat product in the grocery store next to your conventional meat, that’s probably a little further out,” Anderson-Baron said. “But I would still say five to seven years.”

Matt Anderson-Baron, founder and lead scientist at Future Fields in the lab, an Edmonton startup researching in the field of cellular meat products in Edmonton, December 7, 2018. Photo by Ed Kaiser/Postmedia

In addition to cost, other barriers to widespread adoption of lab-grown meat include the lack of a regulatory structure — the products must be certified safe to eat — as well as an “ick factor” that may be hard for some consumers to overcome. But given how veganism and plant-based protein have revolutionized the food world in just a few short years, making a bet on lab-grown meat doesn’t seem entirely foolish.

And that’s why Datar said she doesn’t want Alberta to miss the boat.

“I actually see the supply chains for cellular agriculture happening on the Canadian prairie provinces. There’s already a lot of protein production here, and the Prairie provinces create a lot of crops that go into processed foods,” she said. “I actually think there’s an opportunity here for Canada to be involved with the entire process from soup to nuts — from the very beginning basic materials all the way to the high-value products that get put on store shelves.”

Twitter: @AmandaMsteph

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