The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) just invested in the cell-based meat industry for the first time: The government organization announced that it will award $10 million to Tufts University over the next five years to launch the National Insitute for Cellular Agriculture – the United States’ first cultivated protein research facility.
“USDA’s historic funding for a National Institute for Cellular Agriculture is an important advancement for cultivated meat research and science,” Appropriations Committee Chair Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said in a statement. “I am pleased that USDA’s leadership continues to recognize the important role these technologies can play in combating climate change and adding much-needed resiliency to our food system.”
The USDA-funded initiative will work to develop a sustainable food system through cellular agriculture. By developing new systems of cellular agriculture, the project plans to create space for future professionals that will work to solidify a more resilient food system in the face of the climate crisis and environmental threats.
The newly founded facility will conduct most of the research through the Tufts School of Engineering in Massachusetts, fronted by Tufts University professor David Kaplan – the highly acclaimed cultivated meat expert. Kaplan will work alongside renowned researchers from the Univesity of California-Davis, MIT, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Virginia State, and Virginia Tech.
The cell-based meat industry is flourishing following rising concerns regarding the worsening climate crisis. Livestock agriculture currently accounts for 14.5 to 16.5 percent of all human-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The cultivated meat industry is setting out to disrupt these numbers by presenting a viable and sustainable method to both produce meat products and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A report from CE Delft found that cultivated beef production could reduce air pollution by 93 percent and the overall climate impact by 92 percent as compared to traditional animal agriculture. The new branch at Tufts University will set out to maximize the potential of cultivated meat, pushing research and development to create an affordable cell-based food system.
“This is a major step forward in our work to tackle climate change, infuse resiliency into our food systems, and build a stronger, more sustainable future,” US Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) whose district includes the Tufts University of Engineering. “I am thrilled that this historic grant will be housed in the 5th District at Tufts University, a true leader in cultivated meat research, and am eager to see this transformative research brought to life.”
Currently, several cultivated meat companies in the United States await regulatory approval to begin the widespread distribution of their cell-based meat products. California-based food tech company Eat Just already launched its cell-based meat brand GOOD Meat products across Singapore – the first country to approve the commercial sale of cultivated meat.
Other companies including UPSIDE Foods are preparing to enter the foodservice sector. Earlier this year, San Francisco’s beloved Atelier Crenn announced that it is planning to incorporate the startup’s new cell-based chicken on its menu. This will mark the first time that chef Dominque Crenn will offer meat on her menu since 2018.
While private investors such as Ashton Kutcher and Leonardo DiCaprio have propelled the cultivated industry forward, the United States government has lacked involvement. The current $10 million grant comes within the USDA’s greater $146 million investment for sustainable agriculture. Although a significant amount of money, the Good Food Institute continues to advocate for larger government assistance. Currently, the GFI is petitioning the government to contribute $2 billion for the alternative protein industry. The organization released a report earlier this year that announced that the cultivated meat industry reached $366 million worth of investments in 2020, a figure that only continues to rise.
“Cutting emissions from food production is crucial to limiting climate change, and alternative proteins are the sleeper solution to creating the rapid change we need to meet this moment,” GFI Founder and President Bruce Friedrich said in a statement. “Alternative proteins are the one food-based climate solution that scales and, with government support, can decarbonize global food production. Governments should invest significantly and now in alternative proteins as a key part of climate strategy that simultaneously addresses the increasing risk of pandemics, antibiotic resistance, and food insecurity.”