China has signed a $300 million deal to partner with Israeli high-tech companies working to create laboratory-grown meat as the Asian giant looks to embrace technologies that will help it cut down on harmful emissions and pollution.
The move potentially opens up the massive Asian economy for the Israeli companies. The Chinese market is potentially huge: China imported meat worth more than $10 billion in 2016, according to the International Trade Centre.
As the country modernized and the standard of living rose for the average Chinese, meat consumption has rocketed.
“It is a colossal market opportunity,” said Bruce Friedrich, head of the The Good Food Institute (GFI), which supports and lobbies on behalf of meat alternative interests. “This could put [lab-made] meat onto the radar of Chinese officials who have the capacity to steer billions of dollars into this technology.”
The move is expected to garner applause from environmentalists as a step toward reducing greenhouse gases.
Livestock produces methane gas, which produces 21 times as much climate warming as carbon dioxide, which — also harmful — is released when large tracts of forest are cleared for pasture. Globally, livestock raising is responsible for 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas pollution.
China has already announced a plan to cut Chinese meat consumption by half.
Last week, the state-run China Science and Technology Daily ran an article (in Chinese) advocating lab-produced meat as a safe and environmentally more acceptable way of eating meat.
“You have two identical products, one for which you have to slaughter the cattle to get,” the article said. “‘The other is exactly the same, and cheaper, no greenhouse gas emissions, no animal slaughter. Which one would you choose?”
Many animal rights groups have welcomed the development of lab meat as an alternative to massive animal slaughter in the meat industry.
Some vegans, however, oppose any use of animal tissue and are waiting for a totally animal-free alternative.