Company Looks To Innovate Food Following DOD Funding

A Pentagon-funded company, BioMADE, is seeking proposals to provide America’s soldiers with lab-grown meat as part of an initiative to reduce the CO2 footprint at Defense Department outposts. BioMADE, a public-private partnership that has received over $500 million in funding from the Defense Department, announced earlier this month that it aims to develop innovations in food production that are environmentally friendly.

The initiative focuses on “novel cell culture methods suitable for the production of cultivated meat/protein,” a concept that remains in its experimental phase. Lab-grown meat is produced in laboratories from animal cells with the help of various chemicals. This method has sparked debates about the ethics and effectiveness of creating meat products without traditional animal slaughter.

BioMADE, which earlier this year received a $450 million boost from taxpayers, argues that lab-grown food products will help reduce the Pentagon’s carbon footprint. This aligns with the Biden administration’s mandate for the military to address climate change and other cultural issues, which critics often label as “woke.”

The company’s informational documents and press releases outline the types of proposals sought, which include nutrient-dense military rations produced via fermentation processes, utilizing one carbon molecule (C1) feedstocks, and novel cell culture methods for cultivated meat/protein. They are also interested in processes that convert greenhouse gases and develop bioproducts to mitigate negative environmental impacts, such as coastal erosion.

Critics of the Department of Defense’s collaboration with BioMADE argue that U.S. troops should not be used as test subjects for experimental lab-grown meat products. Jack Hubbard, executive director at the Center for the Environment and Welfare, voiced his opposition, stating, “Taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund the lab-grown meat sector. Our troops deserve better than to be served lab-grown meat, produced in bioreactors with immortalized cells and chemicals.” He further criticized the initiative as being driven by a political agenda that is anti-farmer, emphasizing that soldiers should not be used as “guinea pigs.”

The Pentagon has allocated up to $2 million for such “alt-protein projects,” as reported by the publication Alt-Meat. Proponents of these efforts argue that addressing global change and pursuing new technologies like lab-grown meat are crucial for U.S. national security. Matt Spence, a former Defense Department official, highlighted this perspective in a 2021 Slate article, advocating for government investment in alternative meat production methods to combat climate change.

However, recent studies challenge the environmental benefits of lab-grown meat. A study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that lab-grown meat could have a carbon footprint potentially worse than conventional beef.

Derrick Risner, the study’s lead author and a member of UC Davis’s Department of Food Science and Technology, explained that if companies continue using pharmaceutical-level purification processes for growth media, it could result in higher resource usage and increased global warming potential. “If this product continues to be produced using the ‘pharma’ approach, it’s going to be worse for the environment and more expensive than conventional beef production,” Risner stated.

Despite the controversy, the Defense Department and BioMADE did not respond to requests for comment from the Washington Free Beacon. As the debate continues, the future of lab-grown meat in military rations remains uncertain, balancing the promise of reduced environmental impact against the current technological and ethical challenges.


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