On Wednesday, June 27, GFI’s Director of Policy Jessica Almy, Esq. was part of a panel of clean meat experts who presented to the Advisory Committee for the Congressional Research and Development [R&D] Caucus Committee. 

Representative Bill Foster, a co-chair of the R&D Caucus, gave the opening remarks on behalf of himself and his co-chair and event co-sponsor Representative Barbara Comstock. AAAS Sci & Tech Policy Fellow Dr. Yasmeen Hussain from Representative Foster’s office moderated the panel, which also included Isha Datar, Executive Director of New Harvest, Andrew Noyes, Head of Communications for JUST, and Andrew Stout, Graduate Research Assistant at Tufts University. The panel spoke to an overflowing, standing-room-only crowd.

You can watch our recording of the event here

New harvest's isha datar, research assistant andrew stout, gfi's jessica almy, just's andrew noyes, and congressional aide and aaas fellow yasmeen hussain.
New Harvest’s Isha Datar, Research Assistant Andrew Stout, GFI’s Jessica Almy, JUST’s Andrew Noyes, and Congressional Aide and AAAS Fellow Yasmeen Hussain.

Below are Jessica’s remarks as prepared:

We are on the cusp of a major shift in how meat is produced globally. Thanks to the groundbreaking work of my colleagues on this panel and researchers like them, American companies like UPSIDE Foods, JUST, Blue Nalu, Wild Type, and Finless Foods are sustainably growing clean meat — animal meat outside of an animal.The United States excels at innovation. It is not an accident that Americans have pioneered everything from the internet to the iPhone. Americans are also at the forefront of commercializing clean meat. Silicon Valley venture capital funds and the conventional meat industry have invested tens of millions of dollars in clean meat.

For example, the major meat company Cargill — the largest privately-held company in the United States — has invested in leading clean meat startup UPSIDE Foods. Tyson — the largest producer of meat in our country — has also invested in UPSIDE Foods and another clean meat company, Future Meat Technologies. Tyson hasn’t just invested, but they are also actively partnering with Memphis, helping them understand the current system so they can be successful in the market.

The importance of investing in clean meat cannot be underestimated if the United States is to remain at the forefront of innovation.

But while we arguably have the lead for now, it’s not just Americans investing in American innovation that is driving this industry forward. PHW Group, Germany’s largest chicken producer, has invested in an Israeli clean meat startup called SuperMeat. Globally, there are more than a dozen clean meat companies headquartered in countries that include Israel, the Netherlands, and Japan.

And some other governments are making serious investments in this space. Not only has a German chicken company invested in an Israeli clean meat company, but Israel’s government has invested in a second Israeli clean meat company, which is called Aleph. The government of the Netherlands has invested in clean meat research there. And, just last month, the Japanese government invested in Integriculture, a clean meat company in Japan.

Additionally, we expect investments from Singapore and China. Singapore has invested in other food technology companies and China has invested billions of dollars in clean energy.

Meanwhile, if we look at U.S. public funding for all agricultural R&D, across the entire sector, we see that it has dropped dramatically over time — from $6 billion in 2003 to $4.5 billion in 2013. And of course, very close to none of those dollars have been invested in R&D for clean meat.

There is a critical need for the United States to prioritize this kind of R&D. We all would benefit from bringing clean meat to market as quickly and efficiently as possible. Clean meat is similar to conventionally produced meat, so it will taste just like the meat we all grew up eating, but it is produced in a sterile environment which reduces the risk of microbial contamination.

And clean meat is expected to convert feed crops to meat more efficiently than animals do. Based on the published literature, my colleague at the Good Food Institute Dr. Isaac Emery estimates that an acre of cropland in the United States corn belt could support the production of 900 pounds of conventionally-produced chicken (the most efficient meat on the market today) — or 2 to 4 times as much clean meat.

And federal investment in clean meat R&D will likely generate further dividends, given that innovation is enormously profitable and every dollar invested in agricultural research is estimated to create $20 in economic activity.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell the congressional staff who come to an R&D Caucus event, but for everyone else in the room — the government’s investment in R&D makes a real difference by increasing the sustainable choices that consumers have in the marketplace. USDA-funded research at the University of Missouri, for example, was the foundation of the technology that’s now used in Beyond Meat’s successful plant-based “Beyond Burger” — which helps plant cells take on the meaty texture of meat. Because of that research, consumers now can buy products like the Beyond Burger in supermarkets nationwide.

I’m grateful that you all took time out of your day to come to learn about clean meat. We have an incredible opportunity right now. Public investment in clean meat R&D would be an investment in our future and in the future of food.

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Photo by Martin Falbisoner.