GUEST BLOG: Jon Carapiet – Lab-grown meat. Why it’s bad for New Zealand, for more reasons than you think.


Lab-grown chicken developed by UPSIDE foods is the latest cell-cultured meat to be launched to market in the US.

More and more start-ups are seeking approval, including in Australia. 

The sector is rich with investors, even promising proteins from thin air (which genuinely sounds hopeful and is positioned as natural and non-GMO).

UPSIDE’s lab-grown chicken is to be served in high-end restaurants, to gain cache and a touch of class from the image of celebrity chefs and fine dining. It’s a strategy that has worked before.

In 2018 the strategy was used for the Impossible Burger which gained international PR from Air New Zealand’s endorsement of its innovative lab-grown blood

It was only offered to business class passengers and on selected flights and The Impossible Burger benefited from its association with Brand New Zealand as natural, clean, green and progressive.

Air New Zealand was criticised for failing to support New Zealand producers in it’s rush to look innovative and climate-aware with fake meat. Kiwi manufacturers of plant based foods had missed out on a chance to showcase their natural, GE-free vegetarian products. Kiwi producers of natural, grass-fed, GE- free lamb and beef, also argued they had missed out on showcasing their point of difference to premium customers.

Soon after, the Impossible Burger was featured as a lesson for New Zealand in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) review of risks and opportunities for novel proteins and food innovation.  

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The conclusion by some in the food industry is that we have a problem and must meet the challenge of synthetic food by doing the same. The whole focus seems to lead to investing in innovative biotechnology for fake meat and milk alternatives.

But is it correct to argue that the only solution to the trend for plant-based, ethical and sustainable diets is biotechnology and synthetic food products?

It is clear today that in contrast to more technologising of food, the opportunity for New Zealand farmers and producers is to leverage the assets of Brand New Zealand by keeping it natural. 

Some food exporters have gone further to ensure lab-grown meat doesnt harm people, farmers or the environment.  In March of 2023, the Italian government supported a bill that bans lab-grown “foods”.  There are calls for US  state governments do the same.


Things have changed.

Tension is growing between nature-friendly and technology-friendly responses to multiple challenges. There is panic that those industries controlling the Market are blocking the change people want to see.

There is more urgent need for authentic action on climate change. The delaying tactics and promise of future technology to fix things are being seen to be overly optimistic or hollow. 

The evidence is growing that we have market failure. The transition to farming sustainably, with organic and agro-ecological science needs to be subsidised. The alternative future is that industrial and intensive agriculture continue to dominate the scene. 

The likelihood is the future holds both. 

Futurist Melissa Clark-Reynolds monitors trends and signals and says that contradictory trends will exist in parallel. In a way they already do she says, ‘the future is already here’ but just not equally distributed. 

One problem is the commercial drivers are taking New Zealand to the ‘technology’ option. If we want to preserve opportunities for the future we need to focus on science and research for the ‘nature’ option too. 


Saying No to a farm-free future

Today, there is a greater threat to farmers than the impact of the consumer move away from animal products. 

That threat is defined by a mindset that considers the answer to the question ‘how to meet demand for sustainable, ethical food’, is synthetic milk and lab-grown meat.

The debate is happening internationally. UK writer George Monbiot has a long history of environmentalism but sees the end of farming as necessary to save Nature. 

The publication of “Saying ‘No’ to a farm-free future” by Chris Smaje is one response to this vision of a mix of technologised food and re-wilding of nature. 



Regulation of Lab-Grown Meat.

Today, it is unlikely Air New Zealand will want to promote the  lab-grown chicken in business or economy.  

The downsides of lab-grown meat are better understood. It looks significantly less-sustainable than hoped.

There is reliance on pharmaceutical-grade inputs, including bovine fetal growth medium that add to the yuk factor and risks of food safety.

One of the scientific discoveries about our relationship with food is the importance of the gut biome to human health. There are questions about the effect that GE food and highly processed lab-grown products will have

There is no way of telling as far as the new lab-grown chicken is concerned as the research has never been done. Most likely the only people to know if there is any discernible effect would be the people eating the product in fine restaurants, or at the Cop 27 meeting where it was once served to delegates. 

The US Food & Drug (FDA) already signed off on the product last November. It had reviewed the application which outlined the lab process and strict measures to self-regulate the safety of the product. These include screening against viral contamination, creation of prion-like disease, and other risks to ensure the product was similar in specification to chicken meat. 

The FDA had no more questions. In fact the the FDA and manufacturer seem to agree that the lab-grown meat is so much like real chicken that it needs no further consideration for regulation. Its launch to market is based on the regulatory concept that it is ‘substantially equivalent’ to real chicken. Humans have been eating chicken for years, so lab-grown chicken is much the same and can be “Generally Regarded as Safe”. 

This failure in the US system for proper regulation of lab-grown food and Gene Edited food has relevance for other countries. There is international industry pressure to relax regulation and do the same or risk ‘being left behind’. Food Standards Australia NZ (FSANZ) has approved scores of imported GE food products using substantial equivalence as the starting point for evaluation, which is supported by industry. Consumer and independent scientific concerns about this are rejected. 

It’s the same issue in the debate about testing and labelling of Gene Edited food from CRISPR. Independent scientists, and the European Union Ministers of Environment support the need for the use of GE processes to trigger close scrutiny of what has been produced. 

Process-based regulation allows for whole-genome sequencing and ‘omics‘ to evaluate safety. 

The argument from industry against this is that it is unfair on Gene Editing which is proven safe and therefore only the end product need be considered. And if the end product can be assumed safe because it is substantially equivalent to conventional food, other safety issues risk being ignored. 

In this version of the future of food, synthetic lab-grown chicken and Gene Edited products would escape proper regulation.

The concern is that novel foods will be assumed to be much the same as the food we have been eating safely for hundreds of years. No questions asked.


Jon Carapiet: Born in Ghana and educated at Cambridge and Auckland Universities, Jon is a consumer researcher and advocate, photographer and writer. Jon started talking about valuing and protecting Brand New Zealand in the early 2000’s and is spokesman for GE-Free NZ (in food and environment). Twitter  jon@brandnewzealand


  1. Jon – Another issue is that NZ economy depends on a large part on farming animals…so this could be bad news for many farmers…Air NZ dropped the Impossible Burger due to very low demand….

    • Nobody in the press will ever ask why the country is totally dependent on agriculture and primary industry, the hallmark of a backward economy. No politicians ever raise this question either. All of this despite the fact that the country already had a diversified and quite industrialised economy as recently as the mid-1980s.

      The threat of synthetic food to the meat and dairy industry is another obvious reason why people should demand an answer to that question. Yet if anybody dares to ask, they are branded by the press as an ‘extremist’, who must be silenced — until Trump came along, for years there was a total press blackout of any criticism of globalisation. Why?

      Because such criticism is a serious threat to Wall Street, and an existential threat to the entire U.S. imperial empire itself: the unipolar world order of U.S. global primacy, sole superpower status, and total control of the world reserve currency and the financial system.

    • @kr
      “Nobody in the press will ever ask why the country is totally dependent on agriculture and primary industry, the hallmark of a backward economy. No politicians ever raise this question either. All of this despite the fact that the country already had a diversified and quite industrialised economy as recently as the mid-1980s.”
      The hallmark of a backward economy… You will have access to the statistics to support that particular brain-fart one would hope.
      “All of this despite the fact that the country already had a diversified and quite industrialised economy as recently as the mid-1980s.”
      Again. What fact is that? The one that visited you in your sleep and whispered in your ear?
      Your attempt at devaluing our primary industry is worrying. Your lack of substantive facts is hilarious.
      “…a diversified and quite industrialised economy as recently as the mid-1980s.”
      What were and are they? What was/is our diverse industry? Tourism? All our non agrarian manufacturing, such as it was, is now outsourced to China, Vietnam, Korea and Malaysia.
      You sir, are writing bull shit. But why…? Why are you writing bull shit? Are you trying to hide crimes committed by criminals? Dodgy old fuckers now well used to the High Life in the leafy suburbs of Auckland or Sydney?
      Am I correct in thinking that the scratching at the kitchen door, which is a metaphor for the Truth fyi genius, is becoming deafening and the door’s beginning to splinter?
      Oh my God! That’s it isn’t it? The fucking bundles of lies spun for generations are coming unstuck!
      This is beginning to become very exciting.
      “…despite the fact… ” written while not presenting any facts. Ba ha!

      • @C.B. — Where have the 35 domestic electronics manufacturers gone, that previously produced 113,000 television sets and 93,000 radio sets annually? That number is now zero.

        Where have the 16 automotive plants gone, formerly producing 122,000 automobiles per annum, on behalf of over 43 major auto marques at times? That number is also now zero.

        Why did the number of employees in textile/clothing/footwear manufacturing collapse from 50,000 to less than 5,000?

        Why did the number of employees producing fabricated metal products collapse from 70,000 to 5,000?

        A shill for neo-liberal globalism misleads the readers, and then accuses me of covering up the truth!

        If indeed you paid any attention in economics class (or ever actually showed up to school at all), you would already know that the most advanced economies produce many highly complex finished goods, not only low value-added primary products.

        • You are correct to draw attention to the evisceration of NZ’s manufacturing and, – for whatever people might have once optimistically described it – “heavy industry”.

          But you are in la-la land to insinuate that no one was criticising globalisation (i.e. international free markets) before Donald-King Con, Lord of the Lies- Trump. appeared on the scene.

          • @Richard — I was certainly one of the people criticising extreme free trade before 2015. But with the exception of a few years in the late 1980s, and another brief period in 1999, how often did such criticisms appear in newspapers and on television?

            What changed in 2015 was the two most popular politicians in the presidential election (Trump and Bernie Sanders) and the most popular politician in the U.K. (Jeremy Corbyn) shocked and enraged the establishment by managing to widely popularise such criticisms — in such a way that it could not go unreported in the press.

        • Manufacturing in NZ disappeared when the locals found out that big manufacturers overseas could sell them a better product for a lower price. While you are correct that high agriculture production is generally a sign of a less developed economy NZ has depended on primary products for longer than I have been alive & it would be unfair to claim that NZ is not a developed economy. It is also obvious that GDP per person in agriculture will never match specialised manufacturing although the size of our market, the distance to other markets & having the things to make all make manufacturing a difficult task here, despite those obstacles there are successful manufacturers who export in NZ & do not rely on government subsidies. As long as people can ride the property gravy train with immigration to create the demand for overpriced housing then it is unlikely that the serious investment required to develop an industrial economy will ever happen.

    • mmmmm I smell a new bout of rightwing lies after the no climate change and anti e/v lines they’ve been pushing are largely flat on their face

  2. Why does no one talk about the environmental impact on lab grown protein. Do people think the gasses that run the fridges, plastics that cover most laboratories right down to the chairs, ICT from plastics etc etc etc – just so much that has been produced that doesn’t last long in industry thanks to oil. I’d love to see a comparison.

    • If you follow through on many of the knee jerk reaction of the Greens to many situations their solutions while looking good at first lead to a worst situation .I believe this will be the case with EV vehicles free range chickens and many of their social platforms .

    • Do they not use refrigeration in the animal products industry? Is there no environmental impact from farming animals? The obvious answer is less processed food & more plants in our diet if we want something sustainable & healthy (meat is a processed food, first in the animal then in the butchery).
      Supply & demand regarding the cost of production & the sale price of different food items is the most likely way that people’s food choices will change over time as people don’t like being told what to eat.

      • Point of sale is not my narrative as all products need it but in fairness meat doesn’t have to. My narrative is production. Anyway plants are heavily processed in shite loads of products as well. There doesn’t have to be environmental impact from meat farming – we are learning to mitigate it and in fact benefit the environment in dual farming practice’s. I think the last sentence I agree with and meat is neat but so are plants. Balance is recommended.

      • I guess your comparing so many laboratory chairs to a quad bike in he paddock.

        I agree – but a break down would be an interesting comparison – until this happens I’ll never be convinced.

        Do labs have valleys of trees etc to offset maybe the bigger question.

  3. Of course, it’s not really lab grown meat. That’s just spin: It is factory grown meat.

    So where does this ‘meat’ get its ingredients? I’m told by my biologist friend that it’s essentially a fermentation process using grains as the feedstock.

    Hmmm so where do the grains come from? 😉 That’s right folks! Intensive arable farming.

    • Agreed, intensive arable is far worse for the environment than regenerative sheep, beef and dairy farming. Some studies suggest lab grown meat has 22X the emissions of grass fed beef. If we use GWP* metric most animal protein farms in NZ are already either carbon neutral/positive, or could become so fairly readily by adapting regen farming practices.

  4. I’d be concerned too about the GE nanobots.
    Programmed little bots that get into the body and fucks about with your ‘wiring’ and DNA. You could end up becoming the very person you do not like! Fuck that!

  5. “Eating safely for hundreds of years”? I guess that depends on how much red meat you actually consume. Then there’s the whole ecoli issue which is not about meat per se but how we farm it (in massive lots and feeding them meat products in some countries).

    If you are going to ban lab grown foods because of their impact how about being consistent. There’s nothing natural about undrinkable water and rivers full of shit and fertiliser either.

    I would prefer real meat myself but can’t say I hated the impossible burger.

  6. It’s all yuck. You couldn’t pay me to eat this shit. All these unnatural meat “substitutes” are unfit for human consumption. Anyone promoting this stuff (e.g. Bill Gates and the WEF) have ulterior motives (i.e. depopulation). I can’t believe that the Green Party, who were are all against GMO’s (which this technology relies upon), are silent on this issue.

    • As I said, a huge polar shift is coming. The right will be opposing GE/synfood, etc, and the left will support it.

      Bring it on.,

      • Huge polar shift ey? Like so huge, so massive, so polar….like huge!!!! It’s a woke fad and I see you’re already right into as the Chief Promoter while you’re probably eating a real beef burger for lunch.

  7. Thanks for this John.
    GM is about increasing profits, not feeding people.
    “The real causes of hunger are poverty, inequality, and lack of access to food and land. Too many people are too poor (about 2 billion survive on less than $1/day) to buy the food that is available (but often poorly distributed) or lack the land and resources to grow it themselves. Because the true root cause of hunger is inequality, any method of boosting food production that deepens inequality is not only bound to fail to reduce hunger but exacerbate it….
    Furthermore, attacking inequality head-on via true land reform holds the promise of productivity gains far outweighing the potential of agricultural biotechnology. Whereas industry proponents will often hold out the promise of 15%, 20%, or even 30% yield gains from biotechnology, smaller farms today produce from 200% to 1,000% more per unit area than larger farms worldwide (Rosset, 1999). Land reforms that bring average land holdings down to their optimum (small) size from the inefficient, unproductive, overly large units that characterize much of world agriculture today could provide the basis for production increases beside which the much-ballyhooed promise of biotechnology would pale in comparison.
    It is critical to understand that most innovations in agricultural biotechnology have been profit driven rather than need driven. The real thrust of the genetic engineering industry is not to make agriculture more productive but rather to generate profits.”

    Genetically engineered crops, separating the myths from the reality – Miguel A Alteiri
    on-line in http//bst/

  8. As a farmer, as a one time meat and wool farmer, I say, just don’t eat meat. Eating flesh is beneath us human, human beings. It’s not necessarily beneath any unapologetic meat eating farmer however but that’s on them. Let them trudge through the blood and guts of sentient beings. They also vote national and Act and take advantage of their neighbours to expand their little penis-fifedoms.
    Besides, our farmland’s will soon be pine trees with a harvest time of thirty years so,so by then you’ll all be eating your neighbours.
    The Guardian
    NB: I wonder just how much influence fletchers, wrightsons or carter holt harvey hold over the pine-tree-ification of AO/NZ? Perhaps the four now foreign owned banks could answer that?
    All this proves to me that you don’t need to be intelligent to be rich, just psychopathic and narcissistic.

    • Lol. Humans are made to eat meat. We’re descendants of the mammoth hunters! How far we have fallen. The only truly healthy diet (i.e. where you don’t end up being overweight and eventually on expensive Pfizer Type II diabetes shots and later on dialysis) is a keto or carnivore diet.

      • Where you end up with bowel cancer. I hardly think the mammoth hunters ate only elephant burgers. What was their life expectancy by the way. Diabetes is more sugar and good old corn and it’s derivatives ( I agree it’s nothing to do with meat)

        • Bowel cancer is mostly due to burnt meat (charred meat contains one of the most powerful carcinogens known which you really only get on BBQs). Then you have preserved meats (e.g. salami, bacon etc) which use Sodium Nitrite (that both preserves and make it stay nice and pink) which metabolises to very powerful carcinogens (e.g. nitrosamines). Meat in of itself does not cause cancer. Stop spreading nonsense.

            • yea mical with 3 gallons of water pumped into every packet last bacon I bought didn’t fry in it’s own fat but poached in it’s water content

          • so those mammoth hunters cooking their elephant sized sirloins didnt get charred meat? but then if they got to live to the age of 50, they probably never had to worry about cancer.

  9. All GE food has so far been far less successful than the hype would have us believe. At the moment the US has malaria outbreaks in Texas and Florida, the two states that have released multi millions of GE mosquitos with the promise they would prevent malaria. GE does not work, all it does is at best make huge profits for biotech companies, or expensive failures like the NZ GE animal trials which should have had the scientists involved charged with animal cruelty.

    I’m a farmer and will continue to grow organic food and never use GE pastures or eat lab grown frankenfood.

    • And pollute our waterways.

      I can see a huge switch coming, the Left supporting GE and nuclear and QAnon antivaxxers like you supporting organic.

      • I’m an organic farmer, and have been for long years. But what is QAnon? I’ve only ever heard of it used by people who are trying to dismiss someone else without bothering to answer the actual points raised. Is it actually a real thing, and if so, what? Genuine question.

        Ad hominem is the resort of those without an argument. It’s unfortunately common in the comments section here.

        In think a lot pf people from all parts of the political spectrum are considering nuclear energy may well be the way to go, if we could be confident it was totally safe in our earthquake prone country. Thorium perhaps?

    • Millsy says you’re bad. He’s holier-than-thou of course like so many here. You carry on Ben growing good stuff. We’ll eat it.

  10. Too many people, finite world.

    Humanity is like a yeast culture producing alcohol. Eventually the culture”s love of living in it’s own shit kills the organism.

  11. as the quality of vegan/veggie substitutes improve as the quality of our meat falls..IF it can be brought to market at a reasonbable price it becomes a viable alternative to our water pumped products…especially in the current economic crisis
    AND no I’M not a veggie just sick of paying top dollar for a second class nz product


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