In the future, will protein be raised by a farmer or in a petri dish?

For generations, if you wanted protein in your diet, consumers would dive into a steak, pork tenderloin, or chicken breast. With the benefit of venture capital and technology several food innovators are pushing the envelope in the development of synthetic or cell-cultured proteins. It looks like a chicken breast, it tastes like a chicken breast and to much surprise, it’s grown in a petri dish from the cells of actual chickens.

Science pushes the envelope of innovation in many ways in agriculture, but for the attendees at the Bayer Agvocacy Forum sometimes this can create controversial discussions.

The future of protein is one of those uncomfortable discussions especially when it involves stepping around farmers and ranchers that have been producing a safe, high quality product for generations.

Whether it’s consumers that are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions or people that are against the slaughter of animals, companies like JUST are looking to score big. Even traditional protein packers like Tyson and Cargill are getting into the action by investing in the sector. Watch the BBC video below to get the idea of what JUST is up to.

JUST’s head of communications, Andrew Noyes was part of one of the panels at the Bayer event and mentioned that they want to work with traditional producers because they need high quality genetics through the cells collected. The agriculture media in the room had some tough questions for Noyes, who repeated several times that the current system will not feed the world and cell cultured meat would allow nine billion people to be fed by 2050.

But what does it mean for producers? Should the traditional rancher or feed yard owner be concerned?

Past president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and current rancher from California, Kevin Kester was an attendee and panelist at the event. In terms of whether it’s a threat to the meat industry Kester says, “I do not think it’s a threat, we are thinking right now and we are not against the technology. Looking 50 to 75 years down the road we probably have to use every method available to produce a safe and abundant protein source around the world.”

However, it’s the even playing field on regulatory and labelling that’s has Kester concerned for the future and sees it as a real need to establish earlier rather than later.  “They (cell cultured meat producers) have to go through the same food safety inspection processes as conventional raised meat. Same rules and level playing field is all we are asking for,” he adds.

Listen below to RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney speak with  NCBA’s past president and current rancher, Kevin Kester, about the issue of cell cultured meat and what it could mean for the sector.

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