Cultured meat in the Netherlands: fantasy or reality?

In 1999, a Dutch doctor and researcher named Willem van Eelen made the first patent for producing meat out of stem cells. 20 years later, how far off are we from ordering cultured meat in the Netherlands?

Meat has had a hard time in the media over the last 10 years. Concerns over its healthiness, or the gigantic emissions caused by the meat industry has lead to a search for alternatives. Plant-based meats are already widespread, but over the last two decades, scientists have been attempting to reproduce meat not by slaughtering animals, but through their stem cells.

What exactly is cultured meat?

Cultured meat is developed in laboratories through the usage of stem cells from animals, for example from the buttocks of cattle. Work is also done on using vegetable proteins to feed the cultured meat.

The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority is not quick, however, to launch the products on the market, unless it passes the necessary safety checks. The subject of cultured meat is also part of a greater political debate in the Netherlands.

Calls for speeding up the process for cultured meat in the Netherlands

VVD will submit a proposal today in Parliament in order to allow the development of cultured meat to happen faster. Parties like the VVD, GroenLinks and CDA are concerned that other countries might overtake the Netherlands in the development of cultured meat, and they consider the country should be at the forefront of this new innovation, given its already existing position of agricultural powerhouse.

Political parties will also inquire if it is possible to obtain Governmental funding for the project in order to speed it up. Especially given the population growth and ever-increasing meat consumption, it is of upmost importance to find alternatives to the current meat industry.

The tipping point is already here, considers Mark Post, as people start to see the benefits of cultured meat more and more.

Cultured meat in the Netherlands: sustainable solution or problematic experiment?

The first ever cultured meat hamburger was made in a Dutch laboratory in 2013, with stem cells from the muscles of a calf. It was created by Mark Post, professor at Maastricht University, who considers the invention of relevant social importance, as a method of reducing meat consumption, which is a strong factor in carbon emissions leading to climate change.

First ever cultured meat hamburger, developed by Mark Post in the Netherlands.  Image: World Economic Forum/ Wikimedia Commons

It has not been a straightforward process. Even if the technology to develop cultured meat has been around for some years, there have been concerns over its safety. The NVWA (Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) blocked test packages two years ago as it was unclear how safe it was to consume the meat. There are however plans, by both Post and his affiliate company, Mosa Meat, to submit proposals to the European Food Safety Authority in order to launch production of the meat.

Cultured meat in the Netherlands is allowed as long as it does not hurt animals

The idea of cultured meat, besides reducing emissions caused by the meat industry, is also about reducing harm to animals. An MP from the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) named Von Martels states that statistically, there are many advantages to cultured meat. This includes using 45% less energy than normal meat, 99% less land as well as 96% less water. Concerns over food safety remain high, and certain companies use blood serum from unborn calves to develop the stem cells, which is considered animal unfriendly, thus defeating one of the main goals of cultured meat.

Do you think that lab-grown meat is a great alternative to the traditional meat industry? Let us know in the comments.

Feature Image: World Economic Forum/ Wikimedia Commons

Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad was born and raised in Brasov, Romania and came to the Hague to study. When he isn't spending time missing mountains or complaining about the lack of urban exploration locations in the Netherlands, you can find him writing at Dutch Review.

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