Present and future food supply faces new challenges. There is increasing scientific evidence that the use of animals for agricultural purposes in its present form cannot be made sustainable. Meat production has negative consequences not only on the environment (pollution of soil and water, high levels of greenhouse gases emission and inefficient energy conversion), but also on human health (Hawkesworth et al. 2010). Furthermore, awareness about ethical concerns regarding husbandry and its negative impacts on animal welfare is growing as well as the number of vegetarians and vegans in western societies, particular in Germany (VEBU 2014). A change in the patterns of consumption of animal products seems unavoidable (e.g. FAO 2014; UNEP 2010; Westhoek et al. 2014).
In recent years, it has become possible to produce in vitro meat from muscle stem cells obtained by muscle biopsy. The breakthrough was in August 2013, when Mark Post and his research team at the University of Maastricht at a press conference presented the first in vitro beef burger grown from bovine stem cells (Post 2014).
Although large-scale production of in vitro meat is not yet possible, a growing scientific community in recent years has proposed in vitro meat as solution to ecological, health-related, and ethical problems of traditional meat production.
Despite the urgency of changes in our eating habits and the optimism of some scientists regarding the possibility of replacing conventional meat by in vitro meat, many aspects of this innovation remain unclear, e.g., the actual ecological advantages of such changes, the societal conditions for innovation acceptance, as well as its cultural impact on agriculture, nutrition, and the relationship between human and animals.
Since in vitro meat is a new and emergent technology at a very early stage of the innovation process, the related concepts and visions are of great importance for research policy in the narrow and "technology governance" in the broader sense.
In this project, concepts and visions of in vitro meat will be analyzed not only through literature analysis, but also by conducting interviews with experts in this field and by means of participative processes involving the public and relevant stakeholders.
FAO – Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (2014): "Food outlook. Biennal Report on global food markets", http://www.fao.org/docrep/019/I3751E/I3751E.pdf [20.07.2014].
Hawkesworth S. et al. (2010): "Feeding the world healthily: the challenge of measuring the effects of agriculture on health", in: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365 (2010), pp. 3083–3097
Post M.J. (2014): "Cultured Beef: A Medical Technology to Produce Food", in: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 94(6), S.1039-1041.
UNEP – United Nations Environment Programme (2010): "2009 Annual Report. Seizing the Green Opportunity", United Nations Environment Programme.
Westhoek H. et al. (2014): "Nitrogen on the Table: The influence of Food Choices on Nitrogen Emissions and the European Environment, Executive Summary", http://www.clrtap-tfrn.org/webfm_send/555 [23.10.2014].
VEBU – Vegetarierbund Deutschland (2014): "Anzahl der Vegetarier in Deutschland", https://www.vebu.de/themen/lifestyle/anzahl-der-vegetarierinnen [23.10.2014].
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