Lab-grown meat has a P.R. problem

Cell-based meat companies claim their products are identical to meat, but they have one important difference, reports Joe Fassler, in FERN’s latest story, produced in collaboration with Bloomberg Businessweek.

“On a cellular level, alternative protein advocates say, it’s no different. And that’s 99.9 percent true,” Fassler writes.

“The big honking asterisk is that normal meat cells don’t just keep dividing forever. To get the cell cultures to grow at rates big enough to power a business, several companies … are quietly using what are called immortalized cells, something most people have never eaten intentionally. Immortalized cells are a staple of medical research, but they are, technically speaking, pre-cancerous and can be, in some cases, fully cancerous,” he writes.

That doesn’t mean there are health risks. “…because the cells aren’t human, it’s essentially impossible for people who eat them to get cancer from them, or for the precancerous or cancerous cells to replicate inside people at all. You’d be better off worrying about the nitrates (linked with cancer) or fecal matter (a source of deadly infections) found in farm-raised meat,” the article says.

Read the full story at FERN or Bloomberg Businessweek.