Comparing Clean Meat To The Adoption Of Nuclear Power
A recent analysis by Sentience Institute considers how nuclear power was adopted widely in France, but not in the U.S. This comparison is used to suggest conclusions about how to advance the adoption of clean meat – meat grown from animal cells in breweries or fermenters. The author argues that most studies on clean meat have focused on whether individual consumers will actually buy clean meat, once it becomes affordable, but that the attitudes of institutions (from governments to cafeterias) will play an important role too. The study therefore focuses on lessons to be learned about institutional adoption of clean meat.
One of the author’s arguments is that a sudden shock to the available supply of meat might make clean meat easier to introduce. Such shocks might come from disease outbreaks or extreme weather events. A sudden meat supply crisis is more likely to happen in a country which imports most of its meat, like Singapore.
The evidence for this is that the 1973 Yom Kippur War made oil more expensive to import, and this helped encourage France to announce a program to develop nuclear power. The same did not happen in the U.S., which had better alternatives to nuclear power. A related argument is that animal activism which leads to higher welfare regulations can drive up the price of meat products, which would make clean meat more affordable in comparison.
This analysis suggests that governments with strong central control, technical expertise, and less emphasis on openness and representation might be better placed to avoid opposition to new technologies. In France, this is shown by how the government suddenly announced a plan to introduce nuclear reactors, without public discussion. This might mean that governments like the Singaporean government are better placed than the U.S. government to support the introduction of clean meat.
The analysis also suggests that public, technical discussion of safety issues is likely to put people off clean meat, rather than to reassure them. It also suggests that the perception of the press is likely to influence public attitudes, rather than just to reflect or follow them.
The author lists reasons that one might disagree with their conclusions. These are that clean meat might not completely replace animal meat, that the adoption of new technologies is hard to predict, and that the lessons from the adoption of nuclear power in France might not apply well to clean meat. Nevertheless, this study provides some useful strategic insights for advocates seeking to support the development and adoption of clean meat, as well as suggestions for countries best suited to the institutional adoption of clean meat, most notably Singapore.