Radke Report: New executive order paves pathway for lab-based meat

Amanda Radke
The Radke Report
Radke

Food science, innovation, and advancements in technology have allowed farmers and ranchers to produce more food using fewer natural resources in order to feed a hungry planet with a growing population.

And while I love to celebrate these advancements — after all, I directly benefit them in the form of safe and affordable food I have access to here in the U.S. — there are times when new technologies are presented that give me great cause for concern.

Take, for example, the growing momentum of the lab-grown meat space. Call it what you want — fake meat, petri dish proteins, cell-cultured meat — whatever it is, it’s a distinct move away from traditionally-raised beef, pork, and poultry, and a step into unknown territory.

In September, President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) on “Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy.”

In the EO, Biden writes, "The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the vital role of biotechnology and biomanufacturing in developing and producing life-saving diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines that protect Americans and the world. Although the power of these technologies is most vivid at the moment in the context of human health, biotechnology and bio manufacturing can also be used to achieve our climate and energy goals, improve food security and sustainability, secure our supply chains, and grow the economy across all of America.

“For biotechnology and bio manufacturing to help us achieve our societal goals, the U.S. needs to invest in foundational scientific capabilities. We need to develop genetic engineering technologies and techniques to be ale to write circuitry for cells and predictable program biology in the same way in which we write software and program computers; unlock the power of biological date, including through computing tools and artificial intelligence; and advance the science of scale-up production while reducing obstacles for commercialization so that innovative technologies and products can reach markets faster.”

While Biden doesn’t specifically mention lab meat, the inclusion of “reducing obstacles for commercialization” appears this administration may be paving the way for new food technologies to enter the grocery space. 

There is a very clear agenda in the political landscape to focus on climate change, and livestock continue to be the target for changes and innovations being proposed. 

A Biden Senior Administration Official further explained the EO in a press conference, stating, “Living factories — cells — and biomass can be used to make almost anything that we use in our day-to-day lives, from medicines to fuels to plastics. And this allows the U.S. to leverage innovation — this innovation — to strengthen our economy and society.”

Now contrast that statement to how lab meat is described as being made. According to GCF Global, “Scientists use a cow’s stem cells, the building blocks of muscle and other organs, to begin the process of creating the cultured meat. The cells are placed in petri dishes with amino acids and carbohydrates to help the muscle cells multiply and grow. Once enough muscle fibers have grown, the result is a meat that resembles ground beef.”

If this all sounds like a bad sci-fi movie, you’re not alone. While I don’t know what type of investment the Biden Administration and Congress will make in this bio manufacturing space, it appears like the pathway has been cleared for lab meat to move forward a little bit faster.

With that in mind, it will be more critical than ever before for livestock producers to get involved, to share their stories, to get in front of their elected officials and express their concerns, and to connect with consumers to form a united front on the type of meat we want in America.

As for myself and my family, we’ll take our beef straight from the cow — no petri dish needed!

Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, education and leadership, Radke is a blogger for BEEF Daily blog.