12. February 2020
Cultured Meat: Tackling health, taste and the future of farming
Interview with Brian Spears, CEO at New Age Meats
New ways to produce meat can be healthier and more sustainable than anything that comes directly from animals, says New Age Meats’ CEO Brian Spears. His startup produces cultured meat. Methods like regenerative agriculture offer even more ways to make these products more sustainable. Spears contributed to our session on alternative proteins.
By Sarah Liebigt
Farm & Food: You were part of the session on alternative proteins. How do you tackle that topic, why does it make sense to think about these alternatives?
Brian Spears: We make cultivated meat. Which is meat made from animal cells outside of an animal. There are a lot of reasons why we do that. One, for example: The climate change catastrophe has gotten so bad that solutions like this, directly making meat, are becoming viable. We can make meat, which is healthier, tastier and more sustainable than anything that comes directly from animals.
So in your opinion: where is the market for cultured meat standing right now and where will it be in five years?
We have to use biopharma or medical research techniques, or kits in order to develop our product. So right now it is very expensive. It will be very expensive for a while because we have to create an entire supply chain around this type of product.
In the beginning it will be served to restaurants; as we drop the price we will see our product at commodity level within the decade.
How would you compare the American market to German or European conditions in terms of maturity?
The regulatory agency in the United States is simpler for us, because it is more product based versus process based. Which means that in the US you can look at the end product and as long as it is safe and healthy, they’ll approve it. Whereas in the EU we need to submit our entire process, which means we have to have a process already defined, and then there is a waiting period between 18 and 24 months. That mean it is much more difficult to come to market in the EU which is why we go to either the US or Asia first.
How will products like yours effect traditional farmers? Do you think there are opportunities in this new field of food production?
Our main inputs to this type of meat are amino acids and glucose. That can come from a variety of sources. In the United States there is a lot of corn and there is a lot of soy. We could also move to more sustainable solutions like alge.
In the sessions I’ve been to, there was a lot of focus on regenerative agriculture (at the Farm & Food conference, e.n.). By no means is that process and our process mutually exclusive. We can have a farmer practising regenerative agriculture creating the product that we need and thus making the product overall better.
What’s your personal impression of the Farm & Food conference?
I spoke to several people and evidently, it’s changed over time. It used to be more focused on conventional agriculture. Today you see a much greater focus on regenerative agriculture, on climate change, on what consumers want, on the effect of agriculture and on helping farmers to make more money from what they do by selling higher value products.