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  • Tao Zhang

Let’s Curb Our Enthusiasm Around Cultivated Meat in China

Last week, Time reported on the release of China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs five-year agricultural plan, highlighting the fact that cultivated meats and plant-based products were part of the country’s approach to food security going forward.

It’s promising, but let's not get too excited yet.

For one thing, it's early and reading the tea leaves of ever-evolving China policy is an ongoing process that takes time, patience and, above all, consistency of effort and attention. Decades of experience in China tell us this, and it will be no different for alternative protein.

It's worth noting that local media has not yet mentioned anything on this front so far that I’ve seen. Here below is the paragraph (Google translated) from the report that refers to cultured meat as part of the five-year plan. It’s mentioned just one time, buried in the 45-page document and is quite hard to find, to be honest.

"Food manufacturing of the future: Research cell-based meat, synthetic egg cream, functional recombinant protein cultivation, and manufacturing technology of other nutritional foods, promoting the use of high-value agricultural product resources, component interaction and quality control, new food resource mining, food big data, food omics, functional technological innovations such as functional food, molecular food creation, food hazard monitoring and evaluation."

At its core, the government’s plan is simply to encourage more research into new, food-related technologies, and cultured meat is just one of them. It isn’t calling for the addition of these products to the market. At the same time, most of the 5-year initiative seems to emphasize the need for further development of China's livestock industry.

Overall, while it is encouraging to the alternative protein industry, positioning this report as a groundbreaking policy change seems a little overenthusiastic. When it comes to food in China, Dao Foods starts with entrepreneurs rather than policy. Hence our theory of change: Support entrepreneurs --> Make Good Products --> Create Consumer Demand --> Achieve Policy Support --> Attract More Entrepreneurs Who Launch More Products --> Reach the Desired Impact Goal of Protein Diversification.

In the end, we all get good food and a better world. I wish everyone a happy and prosperous Year of the Tiger in 2022!

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