Chickens will suffer for the Non-GMO Project’s regressive ideology

Not only is lab meat safer than alternatives, it has the potential to save billions of lives.

by Jayson Merkley
Director, Vegan GMO

The Non-GMO Project is happy to sacrifice billions of chickens in pursuit of regressive ideological purity. That was the clear message sent in a March 17th tweet: “This new genetic engineering technology [Memphis Meats lab-made chicken] could pose serious threats to consumer safety.”

The tweet accompanied a link to a Wall Street Journal story that said nothing of the sort. They doubled down a few days later with a tweet exclaiming “We say NO to lab-grown meats. #SayNo2GMO.”

The irresponsibly misleading tweets reveal the Non-GMO Project’s simultaneous ignorance of science and disregard for the plight of chickens. If successful, the baseless campaign to cast doubt on the safety of a promising new technology will result in the prolonged suffering of billions of animals.

Contrary to the Non-GMO Project’s commentary, lab-grown meat will almost certainly be safer than conventional meat. According to Memphis Meats representatives, synthetic meat is produced in an environment much cleaner than animal slaughterhouses. Unlike traditional animal products, lab meat won’t be subject to fecal contamination, or exposure to diseases like E. coli, salmonella, swine flu, mad cow disease, and more.

Most importantly, lab grown meat will replace actual chickens on the food assembly line. That’s significant considering current US consumer trends. Per capita consumption of all animals has remained flat or decreased over the last 50 years—except for chicken.

Graph from the originally tweeted Wall Street Journal article.

Chicken consumption has more than doubled during that window. 61 billion chickens are raised for meat every year according to the WSJ story. This is an alarming trend for anyone concerned with the exploitation and suffering of animals. Chickens yield significantly less meat per animal than cows or pigs. In other words, there’s more death and suffering per pound when it comes to our small feathered friends.

The growing rate of chicken consumption presents a crisis for the animal protection community. We owe it to the victims to consider every possible approach to solving this complex problem. Vegan GMO advocates a rational approach to biotechnology in the ongoing struggle for animal justice. We support organizations raising awareness of issues affecting animals and encouraging more compassionate lifestyle choices. We are encouraged by the progress being made. Cellular agriculture presents a complementary strategy. Specifically, it is an opportunity to affect the eating habits of folks who haven’t responded to that message yet.

Will synthetic chicken make a difference? Recent research suggests that most Americans are willing to try it. As many as one third say they’d be willing to eat it regularly or even replace animal-based meat altogether. That kind of competition would be bad news for many of the Non-GMO Project’s clients.

The Non-GMO Project has happily placed its label on 1,616 products listed in the “Meat, Fish, and Eggs” category on its website. Non-GMO verification of meat is particularly useless in the light of the fact that there are literally no GMO meat products approved for market except for farmed salmon. Yet the non-GMO label is proudly displayed on the bodies of cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, tunas, lambs…the list goes on and on.

If the Non-GMO Project and the industry-funded lobby against biotechnology are successful there will be less market competition against the meat industry. Less competition ensures financial security for those who profit from the slaughter of animals. The regressive ideology of the Non-GMO Project will result in unnecessary suffering and death of billions. We think that’s worth considering when reading the labels at your local grocery store.


Vegan GMO Director Jayson Merkley is a proud member of the inaugural cohort of the Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows program. A vegan of 19+ years, Jayson is excited about biotech’s proven potential to increase quality of life globally for human and non-human animals alike.