Food culture versus cell culture - Why Switzerland is not (yet) ready for lab-grown meat

DSwitzerland is an innovative country. And yet its inhabitants are sceptical about new products. Especially when it comes to food, cultured meat and cashew camembert have a hard time. GDI trend researcher Christine Schäfer explains the reasons for this here and in an SRF Einstein episode.
14 May, 2024 by
Food culture versus cell culture - Why Switzerland is not (yet) ready for lab-grown meat
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

​A land of cheese and sausages

Swiss food culture is characterised by animal products - cervelas, cheese fondue, raclette, milk chocolate and Zürcher Geschnetzeltes are (still) rarely vegan. Mr and Mrs Swiss indulge in just under 48 kilograms of meat and 23 kilograms of cheese per year. As delicious as traditional Swiss cuisine is, today's eating habits are unfortunately anything but sustainable. If we were to eat according to the Planetary Health Diet, each person could eat a maximum of just under 16 kilograms of meat and nine kilograms of cheese per year in order to eat healthily and not exceed the limits of our planet..

Food innovation meets food tradition 

Eating habits change only slowly, as a GDI analysis  shows. But time is a scarce commodity in the face of advancing climate change. To prevent us from having to radically change our eating behaviour overnight (which would be a utopian idea anyway), scientists have been working for years on producing alternatives. Milk without cows? Precision fermentation is the magic word. Cheese made from plants? Cashew camembert tastes like the animal original. Meat without animals? Cell cultivation makes it possible.

Thanks to these innovations, we can continue to celebrate our food culture and enjoy traditional dishes - without the negative side effects of animal agriculture. At least that's the idea. However, most of this is still a dream of the future: cultured meat is not authorised as a foodstuff in Switzerland. And there are still many question marks over its technical feasibility, scalability and consumer acceptance. In the last point in particular, cellular agriculture companies have a lot of work ahead of them. A ​ GDI survey has shown that only 20 per cent of the Swiss population would even like to try lab-grown meat.

Question: How likely are you to try lab-grown meat in future?

Culture as a help or a hurdle?

Switzerland is an innovative country. The Swiss are responsible for world-changing inventions such as Velcro, cellophane and the coffee capsule. And yet we are sceptical about new products and prefer to wait and see. Especially when it comes to food, we are very cautious.

Is this due to our lifestyle, our habits and preferences - in short, our food culture? Is it mostly an obstacle or can it at best also be a help in transforming the food system? And what role do industry, retail and catering play in this?

Thought leaders, industry and nutrition experts will discuss these questions at the International Food Innovation Conference at the GDI in Rüschlikon on Wednesday, 19 June 2024.

You can find out more about lab-grown meat in the SRF Einstein episode ‘Food from the lab: bioreactor versus agriculture’ in which GDI researcher Christine Schäfer also shares her insights on the topic.

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