Animal rights activists praise poultry meat company: wiesenhof invests in artificial meat

The company supports the development of meat from the retort. The animal rights organization Peta sees this as a success for itself.

Chicken breast could be produced largely without animal suffering in the laboratory in the future, researchers promise Photo: dpa

Germany’s largest poultry meat company PHW/Wiesenhof is getting into the development of artificially produced meat. The company has acquired a minority stake in the Israeli start-up Supermeat, PHW CEO Peter Wesjohann told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Animal rights organization Peta claimed this new part of the group’s strategy as a success.

The company, which has repeatedly been at the center of animal welfare scandals, announced in response to a taz inquiry that it would advise SuperMeat on "research and development as well as in the area of strategic positioning on the European market". "Peta and Wiesenhof talked about this strategy and this new development in 2012, and that definitely worked as a food for thought at Wiesenhof," the company’s head of legal and scientific affairs, Edmund Haferbeck, told the taz. At the time, animal rights activists and meat producers had begun a dialogue after years of disputes in the media and in court.

Wesjohann now explained that he sees the commitment to SuperMeat "less as a purely financial investment, but rather as the beginning of a strategic partnership." He said he expects there will be demand for artificially produced meat in a few years, similar to vegan meat substitutes that Wiesenhof already offers. He did not say how large PHW’s stake in the Israeli company is. Other investors are coming from the U.S., among other countries.

Restaurants to get the fake meat in 3 years

"This partnership will allow us to bring a revolutionary new generation of tasty, sustainable meat products to market across Europe and beyond," SuperMeat CEO Ido Savir said. The meat will cost similar to conventional poultry meat, he added.

The Tel Aviv-based company said it has received $3 million from investment companies and others. Savir said he expects to be able to supply the first generation of artificially produced meat to restaurants in three years. "The next step would be to scale up production to an industrial scale in another 2 to 5 years to supply supermarkets and grocery stores."

The advantage of artificially produced meat, also called in vitro meat, is efficiency and the chance to use it to reduce the high resource requirements for meat production, he said. Savir pointed to studies showing that meat from Petri dishes could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the consumption of land and water. Philosopher Richard David Precht, for example, sees meat from the laboratory as "the solution to a problem facing humanity – ethically, economically and ecologically".

Energy-intensive production

The artificial meat is produced by growing animal muscle cells in the laboratory. These are taken from chickens "painlessly," according to the company. According to Peta, extra animals do not have to be bred and kept for lab meat, which is why the organization has been advocating the technology for years. The vegan Albert Schweitzer Foundation also writes that such technologies would "not only significantly reduce animal suffering, but also protect the environment and natural resources."

However, according to a recent study by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the production of lab-grown meat is still costly and only possible in small quantities. Since the required bioreactors have so far required a lot of electricity, there are doubts, especially in the case of poultry meat, whether greenhouse gas emissions will be lower. But the researchers also noted that in vitro meat might in the future help solve problems of meat consumption with regard to the growing world population, climate change and animal welfare.

According to the study, some consumers see artificially produced meat as one of many possible alternatives to conventional meat production. However, in-vitro meat meets with resistance from those who back a reduction in meat consumption and the ecological restructuring of agriculture. (with dpa)