Comment: How much of a threat does lab grown meat pose to the industry?

By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire

I understand the preoccupation with the Australian trade deal not, for any increased competition it will bring, but for the fact they want their goods to come in tariff-free. If it were to happen, it would set a very dangerous precedent for other deals in the future, especially chicken from the USA. If this were to happen, it would probably worry the Brazilians as much as us. In my old role at Copa Cogeca, I met up with the Australian Farmers organisation in Brussels three years ago and they said they would not have much product to send to us if there was a trade agreement.

But have we taken our eye off what I believe is an equally important homegrown threat coming down the line in the form of synthetic products? Recently, I was watching the news and there was a report about a sausage produced by a company called Ivy Farm Technologies, an offshoot of Oxford University, which is going to grow meat in a laboratory from stem cells taken from animals.

The report said meat demand worldwide will increase by 70% by 2050 and lab grown meat will account for 35% by 2035. This meat is different to plant-based products as it will look and feel like meat.

I mention this because I become very frustrated that we are not spending more time promoting what we do to consumers and celebrity chefs rather than talking about cheap imports that may or may not come in. They will not unless someone orders them, a fact that is lost to some.  We know we need some imports as we are regretfully not self sufficient due to carcase balance. Maybe we need more videos like the ones produced by a farmer’s daughter called Bethan Edwards. If you have not seen them, I recommend you do; they are on Linkedin and YouTube.

We have had some good news from Brussels this month as it looks as if processed animal protein (PAP) will be licenced for use again in September of this year in Europe. It is being seen as very much part of the campaign to replace soya and I believe Dale Meats has built a rendering plant that will be able to keep pig and poultry products separate. It is good news because it will put a value into a waste product.

I also attended a Zoom in America that was about waste and it was reported that one third of all available food goes uneaten, a very sobering fact. The participants then discussed what companies such as Wendy’s (soon to start opening in the UK) are doing about it. Apparently, if this amount of waste was cut in half we could feed three billion more people.

Waste is a big subject but there is the opportunity everywhere to cut it down, whether it be by increasing hatchability, and reducing mortality and rejects in the factory. I will leave it to your imagination to see the opportunity waste or lack of it could do to improve the industry’s profitability.

At home everything is going along in the usual way I just wish the weather would warm up as so far this year we have used almost as much gas as we used in the whole of last year which will do wonders for my CCL agreement.

Lastly, I would like to wish two elder statesmen of our industry a very happy birthday in June and they are Aled Griffiths and Derek Kelly who thanks to COVID restrictions missed celebrating in style last year.



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