FEASTS launched: a research project on cultivated meat and seafood explores the future of protein
The FEASTS (Fostering European Cellular Agriculture for Sustainable Transition Solution) program, which launched in January 2024, will be conducted by a consortium of 36 independent institutions from 17 countries. Over the next three years, participants will delve into the technologies involved in the sustainable production of cultivated meat and seafood. They will investigate nutritional, health and regulatory aspects, as well as issues of food safety related to these complementary proteins. Ethical questions connected with cultivated meat and seafood will be addressed. Environmental, economic and social life-cycle analysis will feed into dynamic systems models and expand the understanding of the multi-dimensional impact of cellular agriculture on the environment and the food value chain.
“Growing demand for protein along with the substantial environmental footprint of traditional animal farming mean we need to look for sustainable sources of complementary proteins, which is exactly what FEASTS is doing," said Marja-Liisa Meurice, Director, EIT Food North and East region, which is one of the consortium partners, and leader of the EIT Food Protein Diversification Think Tank. "We are looking to identify the most sustainable, economically viable technologies, and to establish their place in the European Union’s food system. We want our findings to ultimately serve as a decision support tool for informed policy and decision-making in the EU.“
The FEASTS consortium includes leading universities and research institutes, startups, business accelerators, independent consultants, international food innovation initiatives, representatives of farmers and aquafarmers and a consumer association. Also inviting input from food system stakeholders, FEASTS will provide a forum for open and informed discussion about the role of cellular agriculture in meeting the growing demand for protein. Solutions developed over the life of the project will take into account such considerations as food security and just transitions for farmers and aquafarmers.
An important part of FEASTS is exploring how cultivated meat and seafood technologies can contribute to the future of farming. As all cellular agriculture products require the contribution of traditional agriculture, FEASTS will actively involve farmers in designing processes and future scenarios which will generate fair economic returns for them. Another topic of study will be the impact on consumers. Knowledge gaps regarding nutrition and food safety will be addressed with the requisite rigour and transparency, while workshops and focus group studies will put consumer preferences and the vibrant, diverse food cultures of Europe at the heart of research on acceptance of new products on tables across the EU.
Animal farming in the current food system generates 17% of the total greenhouse gas emissions while supplying only 18% of the global calories and 37% of the global proteins. Cellular agriculture, specifically cultivated meat and seafood, has the potential to mitigate the negative effects of current intensive agricultural methods on human and animal health, and to address nutritional challenges, which the EU is facing. One of the goals of FEASTS is to establish a stewardship model for the European Union’s cultivated meat and seafood sector and support its future competitiveness. The ambition is to create a framework for sustainable production resulting in safe, nutritious, and widely accessible cultured products available to all consumers.
“Our aim with FEASTS, which has been designed as a think-tank, is to expand the knowledge related to cultivated meat and seafood so we can future-proof protein supply," added Professor Frederico Ferreira, FEASTS Project Manager & Coordinator from Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon. "We are focused on responsible innovation and principles of open science to ensure data-sharing, reproducibility and, ultimately, access to the project’s findings by key stakeholders. We also welcome input from any institutions operating in the food system which are not yet part of the project. Together, we will create a unique opportunity for an effective reorganisation of the food system and the establishment of resilient value chains in the EU.”
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