2022

Can cultivated meat promote better health? Time will tell


Dr. Dana Ellis Hunnes, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health assistant professor, addresses the nutritional impact of cultivated meat

When we go to the market, we are comfortable buying fruits and vegetables that we know have been grown on a farm, packaged and shipped to the store. Would we feel as comfortable if we knew that rather than being raised on a ranch the meat for our grill was “grown” in a lab?

That day may be coming.

What is cultivated meat?

Cultivated meat is created from cells extracted from living animals. The cells are nourished and grown inside industrial tanks until they are ready to be harvested and prepared for sale.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the process in November after concluding that lab-grown meat is safe to eat.

That doesn’t mean it is coming soon to a store near you. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) still must approve both the product and the facilities manufacturing lab-grown meat before it can be brought to market.

Is cultivated meat high-quality nutrition?

Dr. Dana Hunnes, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health assistant professor of community health sciences andf a clinical registered dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, says there could be upsides to cultivated meat but it’s too early to know for sure.

“In principle, cultivated meat is almost nutritionally identical to farm- or ranch-raised meat,” she said. “But with cultivated meat, you can adjust the medium in which the living cells are grown to add certain vitamins and nutrients that would alter, and perhaps improve, its nutritional quality.”

Another upside Hunnes sees is the potential to decrease the chance of contamination and foodborne diseases such as salmonella and other intestinal pathogens, though scientists say that cells could mature unpredictably.

Might cultivated meat attract vegans and vegetarians?

This new technology comes at a time when consumption of meat is on an upswing, even as vegetarianism and veganism has increased. In the 1980s, the average American consumed more than 190 pounds of meat a year. Today, meat-eating Americans consume more than 220 pounds, on average.

While Hunnes does not predict that cultivated meat will have much impact on the vegan and vegetarian demographic, she can see some trying it because the process does not involve killing animals.

“As a plant-based person myself, I think it is possible that vegetarians, vegans and plant-based people might try it because it is animal-cruelty free,” she said, noting that the process for creating the product is still evolving.

Dr. Dana Ellis Hunnes, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health assistant professor, addresses the nutritional impact of cultivated meat

Dana Hunnes
Dana Hunnes
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Charlotte Neumann
Charlotte G. Neumann
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dena Herman
Dena Herman
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Donald Morisky
Donald E. Morisky
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Michael Goldstein
Michael Goldstein
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
glik, deborah
Deborah Glik
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Jessica Gipson
Jessica Gipson
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Michael Prelip
Michael Prelip
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Dr. Gilbert Gee
Gilbert C. Gee
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
May Wang headshot
May C. Wang
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Philip Massey headshot
Philip Massey
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Wendelin Slusser
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile
Faculty/staff profile placeholder image
Natalie Muth
Community Health Sciences
Read Faculty Profile