Netherlands first in Europe to approve lab-grown meat tastings

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Yesterday, the Dutch government released an official letter announcing it will allow the tasting of meat and seafood products cultivated from animal cells under specified conditions.

Following in the footsteps of the US and Singapore, the Netherlands is now the first country in Europe to permit tastings of lab-grown meat, a move that is particularly welcome by leading Dutch startups in the field. 

Collaborative competition in the lab-grown meat space

Cellular agriculture might not make a huge dent in the food industry for many years yet. However, given time, the breakthrough technology of growing meat in labs can form part of a desperately needed solution to transforming our food systems. 

There is no shortage of cultivated meat startups around the world, and in Europe. One of the keys to their success, apart from food safety and energy efficiency, is taste. For omnivores to pick lab-grown meat over that from a slaughtered animal, it needs to deliver when it comes to taste and texture. 

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However, up until now, scientists in Europe have faced a tremendous hurdle — they haven’t actually been able to let people try their products. As such, the move from the Dutch government to allow tastings under certain conditions is crucial to moving the budding industry forward.

Lawmakers established the “code of practice” in collaboration with cultivated meat startups Meatable and Mosa Meat, and sector representative HollandBIO. 

Maarten Bosch, CEO of Mosa Meat which calls itself a food technology company making the “world’s kindest beef burgers,” called the landmark announcement a “great achievement.” 

“Mosa Meat will use these controlled tastings to gather invaluable feedback on our products and to educate key stakeholders about the role cellular agriculture can play in helping Europe meet our food sovereignty and sustainability goals,” Bosch said. 

“This is great news for the Netherlands,” said Krijn de Nood, co-founder and CEO of Meatable, with whom TNW sat down for an interview earlier this year. He further added that it meant the country would maintain its pioneering position in the field. “Meatable is looking forward to inviting the first people to try our sausages, dumplings, and pulled pork!”

Following in the footsteps of the US and Singapore

As previously mentioned, the landmark decision makes the Netherlands the first country in Europe to make pre-approved tastings of cultivated meat possible. The government has previously set aside €60mn to build a “cellular agriculture ecosystem” and make the country a hub for the emerging technology. It has also established the organisation Cellular Agriculture Netherlands, which will now be tasked with overseeing the code of practice for tasting approvals. 

A little over a week ago, the US approved the sale of chicken made from animal cells from startups Upside Foods and Good Meat, both based in California. Singapore, which was also the location for Meatable’s first public tasting of its cultivated pork products earlier this year, has been way ahead on the regulatory side. 

The city-state formed a Novel Food Safety Expert Working Group in March 2020, and approved the first product (cultivated chicken from Eat Just) for sale in November the same year. Meatable has chosen to create a base in Singapore, and over the next five years, the company plans to invest over €60mn and employ more than 50 people there.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of May this year, Mosa Meat opened a new 2,760 square metre scale-up facility in Maastricht in the Netherlands. When it comes to solving one of the key drivers of climate change and halting the killing of more than 70 billion land animals per year, a little healthy competition never hurt.