Business Bites: “Lab-grown” meat controversy obscures science, confuses consumers

6 steaming hot morsels: The controversy over “lab-grown” meat continues, dragging the name itself into the fray; Roquette launches multiple new pea proteins; a Bulgarian startup wants to use AI and robots to process bugs into food; and much more.

5 Min Read
Cows at a farm.

At a Glance

  • “Lab-grown” meat may be a misnomer, but 70% of consumers say they prefer it on the label.
  • Four new pea proteins could solve formulators’ problems with plant-based products.
  • Nasekomo received $8.6 million to start franchising insect farms with roboticized AI.

The world of “lab-grown” meat, which describes using bioreactors to cultivate animal cells and produce muscle tissue without needing to slaughter an animal, has become a minefield, with senators proposing bans and journalists struggling to figure out what to even call the stuff. Cultured? Lab-cultivated? The list goes on, but in this column, an expert chimes in. Also, ingredients supplier Roquette launches four new multifunctional pea proteins to address the challenges of formulating protein-packed products using plant-based ingredients, and a Bulgarian startup plans to use a recent cash infusion to industrialize the conversion of bugs into food. Which kinds of bugs? Read on to find out.

Confusion over cultivated meat monikers continues

In a recent Lab-Grown Meat Survey, Center for the Environment and Welfare discovered that only about half of U.S. consumers are familiar with the concept of cultivated meat. The science is not only controversial but also confusing; only 19% of respondents said they would try cultivated meat, and a whopping 70% preferred “lab-grown” on the label — even though it’s a critical misnomer according to some experts, who assert that “cultivated meat” is a more precise name.

“‘Lab grown’ terminology and imagery doesn’t accurately describe the process of producing cultivated meat, so it’s misleading to continue using these phrases or images in the media,” Klara Kalocsay, head of research strategy at Food Frontier, said. “The media has a powerful role in educating the public and it's crucial they do so without misleading their audience — whether unintended or not.”

Roquette reveals new pea protein range, application opportunities

Plant-based proteins are booming for a variety of reasons. Now, global ingredients leader Roquette is launching four new multifunctional pea proteins:

  • NUTRALYS Pea F853M (isolate)

  • NUTRALYS H85 (hydrolysate)

  • NUTRALYS T Pea 700FL (textured)

  • NUTRALYS T Pea 700M (textured)

Roquette designed each new ingredient to solve challenges related to formulating foods and beverages using plant proteins. H85 provides a more consistent texture for snack bars and beverages, while F853M increases firmness and thickness, thanks to high-gel strength. 700M and 700FL let manufacturers try out new formats and textures for savory plant-based products.

“The plant-based protein market continues to grow globally every year,” Benjamin Voiry, global head of marketing plant proteins at Roquette, said in a press release. “We believe pea protein is perfectly placed to satisfy the growing appetite for delicious, sustainable and healthier plant-based foods, and we are committed to helping our customers harness the full potential of peas with ease.”

Bulgarian insect farming startup secures funding for robots, AI

Nasekomo, an insect farming startup with operations in France and Bulgaria, closed Series A funding with the equivalent of $8.6 million from private equity fund Invenio Partners, backed by the European Investment Fund, and various wealthy individuals, including two leading Bulgaria pension fund managers. With this capital, the company plans to create a franchised network of insect bioconversion facilities in Europe, the first of which will launch in 2025. According to a press release, Nasekomo hopes to play an integral role in the industrialization of insect farming and address future food access challenges by providing a source of sustainable, high-quality proteins. The release also hinted at proprietary robotized, AI-assisted tech that could shift the insect-based agricultural landscape, which is set to grow exponentially by 2030. Nasekomo creates an array of products for the feed and agriculture industries, ranging from hypoallergenic pet food to insect-based fertilizer, all using the humble black soldier fly. Each gram of eggs can contain up to 40,000 larvae. Bon appétit!

OTA partners with Black Farmers Index to offer free memberships

It’s no secret that Black farmers face unique challenges. In fact, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 allotted $2.2 billion specifically to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA’s farm lending programs before Jan. 1, 2021, proving that more equitable farming requires new ways of thinking.

Organic Trade Association (OTA) is hoping to level the playing field further by offering a free two-year membership for growers who are part of the Black Farmers Index. The website offers an interactive map if you’re looking to diversify your supply chain — or, if you’re a farmer looking for assistance, apply here for OTA’s Diversity and Entrepreneurship Program. In the “How did you hear about us?” field, mention Black Farmers Index.

RIND Snacks acquires Small Batch Organics, launches new product

Big things are happening for upcycled snack company RIND Snacks. The New York-based CPG brand recently acquired Vermont-based granola producer Small Batch Organics. This is the company’s first acquisition since its founding in 2018 — a step that brings it closer to in-house manufacturing and fulfillment self-sufficiency. RIND, which upcycles fruit deemed cosmetically imperfect by retailers but is completely nutritionally viable, also launched its first joint product with Small Batch Organics, Cherry Cashew Crunch. Part of the company’s REMIX line, Cherry Cashew Crunch is a blend of upcycled tart cherries, spiced cashews and vanilla granola clusters. The product is produced at RIND’s new, solar-powered facility in Vermont.

“The addition of Small Batch and its dedicated team enhances our ability to craft premium, healthy and innovative snacks for more customers in a flexible and highly scalable manner,” Matt Weiss, founder and CEO of RIND Snacks, said in a press release.

Researchers create new hybrid of rice and beef

South Korean scientists at Yonsei University have fused rice and beef using cow muscle and fat cells, which reportedly produces a pink hybrid containing 8% more protein and 7% more fat than traditional rice. They did this to make a sustainable meat alterative and ensure that rice, a global staple in many diets, provides extra nutritional value. The process involves slathering rice grains in fish gelatin and food-grade enzymes, then culturing the muscle and fat cells for approximately 10 days. Afterward, the rice grains contained meat and fat throughout, resulting in a product that should meet food safety standards while possessing a low risk of allergy triggers. According to the study, the researchers hope their work will pave the way for other types of hybrid foods.

March 25 Update: It has come to our attention that Center for the Environment and Welfare may be sponsored by groups looking to undermine the adoption of cultivated meat, but the main point stands — confusion exists over what to call this new tech. Food & Beverage Insider will continue investigating this story as it develops.

About the Author(s)

Scott Miller

Staff writer, Food & Beverage Insider

Scott Miller brings two decades of experience as a writer, editor, and communications specialist to Food & Beverage Insider. He’s done a little of everything, from walking a beat as a freelance journalist to taking the Big Red Pen to massive technical volumes. He even ran a professional brewing industry website for several years, leveling up content delivery during an era when everyone had a blog.

Since starting at Food & Beverage Insider, he’s written pieces on the price of greenwashing (and how to avoid it), debunked studies that served little to no purpose (other than upsetting the public) and explained the benefits of caffeine alternatives, along with various other stories on trends and events.

Scott is particularly interested in how science, technology and industry are converging to answer tomorrow’s big questions about food insecurity, climate change and more.

Heather Carter

Associate editor, Food & Beverage Insider

With over a decade of diverse professional experience under her belt, Heather has journeyed from the bustling world of local news reporting to the intricate realms of trade publishing. She has covered a wide array of topics, ranging from architecture and design to the food and beverage industry.

During her illustrious career, Heather also ventured into the realm of public relations, where she gleaned invaluable insights into the art of strategic communication and brand storytelling. Yet, her heart has always been anchored in the vibrant world of F&B, a passion deeply ingrained in her roots as the daughter of a seasoned chef. She has always held a profound appreciation for the role food plays in shaping cultures and connecting people.

With each story she tells, Heather seeks to illuminate the profound impact of food and beverage on people’s lives, celebrating its ability to evoke emotions, foster connections and weave the fabric of our shared human experience.

As Food & Beverage Insider's associate editor, she co-publishes a weekly news column, Business Bites, which showcases the latest industry news, highlighting key business updates, food and beverage innovation, industry events and more. Some of her other articles touch on important topics, such as ultra-processed foods, plant-based foods primed to change the food landscape, international flavors and ingredients, as well as better-for-you CPGs. She also frequently covers top trends at various industry events and has moderated first-of-their-kind education sessions at Informa events.

She can be reached at [email protected].

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the healthy food and beverage industry.
Join 30,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like