A nutritionist is warning of the lack of public information available on lab-grown meat, going as far as to say she’d rather eat her shoe than meat grown in a lab.
Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture announced it approved the sale of “lab-grown” meat for commercial sale. In an interview with the New York Post, Diana Rodgers, a registered dietitian and author of “Sacred Cow: The Case for (Better) Meat,” warned of the unknowns regarding lab-grown meat and advocated sticking to the natural form of meats and food.
“I’d rather eat my shoe than lab-grown meat,” Rodgers told the Post. “McDonald’s is still better because the meat is a better option for vitamins,” she added later.
Two California companies, Good Meat and Upside Foods, are now approved to sell chicken created from animal cells in the United States. The U.S. is just the second country in the world — after Singapore — to allow the commercial sale of lab-grown meat, which is also referred to as “cultured” and “cell-cultivated” meat.
Rodgers told the Post that she is concerned about a lack of publicly-available nutritional information regarding lab-grown meat. When asked whether lab-grown meat was healthy or not, Rodgers said, “We just don’t know.”
“I have yet to see a life cycle assessment on the production of it,” she said. “We don’t have any public data.”
According to Good Meat, its lab-grown meat is made from the cells of chickens, salt, and a base of soy and wheat. They were reportedly unable to provide the Post with a nutritional label because, as of now, the product will only be served in restaurants, not grocery stores. Nevertheless, the company said its product was protein-rich, had “essential amino acids,” and was antibiotic-free.
“The specific nutrition profile varies for each of our consumer products,” a Good Meat spokesman told the Post. “We use unmodified (non-GMO) chicken cells, which occur naturally in animals.”
Similarly, Upside Foods told the outlet that their product was real meat that could be digested the same way as traditional meat, and sent the outlet a document detailing how the product was made.
Rodgers argued that lab-grown meat is not the same as eating traditional meat. “They’re taking mono-crop plant sources, taking them into a factory and using high-energy processes to convert them into meat,” she said.
The FDA had already given the green light for lab-grown meat for the two companies, and the approval by the USDA means it can now be sold commercially, though the companies will not be bringing it to grocery stores yet due to high production costs. The product will reportedly cost upwards of $20 per pound when it comes to stores.
In March, Italy moved to ban the sale of lab-grown meat to protect its food heritage, according to the BBC. The companies argue that lab-grown meat is a more environmentally sustainable option than animals from farms and ranches, despite a preprint study published in May, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, that found lab-grown meat may actually be worse for the environment than regular meat.
The product, which is not vegetarian, is cultivated from animal cells, which are incubated and grown into masses of meat in steel tanks, then cut and made to look like traditional meat, Fox Business reports. Lab-grown meat is not the same as plant-based “meat” products, such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.