Mixed feelings on cultured meat abound in Europe

Countries in Europe have different attitudes towards cultured, cultivated, or lab-grown meat. As the first country in Europe, the Netherlands proudly announced that it is allowing cultured meat tastings. While tastings within companies were already allowed, companies can now apply for external tastings. An independent committee with a toxicologist, microbiologist, doctor, and ethicist will assess applications. Once an application is accepted, companies have the possibility to test whether their ‘meat’ works in a restaurant, or it can have it tested in taste test panels. It is seen as a first step towards towards laboratory meat in the supermarket.

Cultured meat is grown in the laboratory from animal stem cells. The stem cells of only one animal are needed for thousands of kilos of meat. Cultured meat is marketed as being a sustainable and animal friendly alternative to meat.

On the other hand, other countries, for example Italy, Austria and France, do not see lab-grown meat as a sustainable alternative to original agricultural production. They say studies show a poor carbon footprint of laboratory meat due to the energy-intensive process. Italy is banning artificial meat altogether, to ‘protect tradition and culture’. France banned it from company canteens. On the contrary, in the US and Singapore, cultured meat has already been approved for sale.

Before a cultivated meat product can be sold in the EU, it needs to receive pre-market approval by regulators in a process governed by the Novel Foods Regulation. Once EU regulators approve a cultivated meat product, it can be sold across all 27 EU countries. The approval process will include a thorough and evidence-based assessment of the safety and nutritional value of cultivated meat and is estimated to take at least 18 months.