Lab-Grown Meat May Be A Climate Solution You Haven’t Considered
What to Know About This Upcoming Trend
Have you ever considered going vegan or vegetarian? Maybe you have considered some of the environmental benefits but just can’t give up the meat. You may have a new option to try!
What Is Lab-Grown Meat?
Lab grown meat, or cultured meat, is genuine animal protein (including seafood and organ meats) that is produced by cultivating animal cells directly. Cultivated meat is made of the same cell types arranged in the same or similar structure as animal tissues, thus replicating the sensory and nutritional profiles of conventional meat. Thus, cultured meat is a genuine meat and animal protein substitute for farm-raised animal products.
Similarly to how they create pharmaceuticals, scientists have created cultured meat in a lab. The process is quite involved, but basically, it goes like this. To begin, they use the stem cells of a cow, which are the building blocks of muscle and other organs. They place the cells in petri dishes with amino acids and carbohydrates. These help the muscle cells multiply and grow. Once enough muscle fibers have grown, the result is a meat that resembles ground beef.
Veganism & Lab-Grown Meat
There is some debate as to whether or not lab-grown meat is vegan. Since this kind of meat contains cells of real, living animals, most people believe that lab grown meat is not technically vegan. Luckily for them, vegans and vegetarians aren’t the target market for this kind of meat. It is no secret that livestock farming is tough on the environment and climate. The actual goal of creating cultured meat products is to reduce the amount of traditionally raised animal products that non-vegetarians consume.
The Benefits of Lab-Grown Meat
Many people are in full support of lab-grown meat and the benefits it has to offer. These range from animal welfare to human and environmental health.
The agricultural sector creates between 11.8% and 14.5% of all global greenhouse gasses (GHGs) each year. Food production is the largest stress on biodiversity. Half of the world’s habitable land (51 million km2) is currently covered by productive agricultural land. In comparison to conventional beef, lab-grown meat production emits 96% less GHGs, uses 99% less land, and consumes 45% less energy. With the reduction of meat production, we can reduce our carbon footprint and increase our planet’s biodiversity.
Humans raise, kill, and consume more than 70 billion land animals and 90 billion marine animals. Even a slight reduction in the current demand for meat products will have a huge impact on the quality of animal treatment and disease outbreaks. Not only does cultured meat improve the quality of animal welfare, it also reduces the antibiotic abuse in the livestock industry. More than two-thirds of all the antibiotics used in the world are given to livestock, not humans. This is turning our factory farms into breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten to take hundreds of millions of human lives by the end of this century.
Health and Safety
Meat products are often the cause of illnesses and in extreme cases pandemics, like COVID-19. Lab-grown protein products could potentially become inexpensive and convenient alternatives that ultimately protect our population’s health.
The Drawbacks of Lab-Grown Meat
No solution is without its drawbacks and cultured protein is no exception.
Health & Immunity
There is a slight concern regarding our immune systems and overall health with lab-grown protein. Since cultured muscle cells have no immune system to fight off germs, they rely heavily on antibiotics to prevent bacterial contamination. This may be fine short term, but it may potentially cause problems in our immune systems in the future.
The Economy & Job Loss
A boom in the cultured meat industry could affect the traditional animal product markets. Many argue that this will cause a drastic shift in our economic stability due to widespread job loss. The transition to cultured meat and dairy would be economically detrimental to farmers and brands currently producing conventional animal products. Some even go so far to say that lab meat could eradicate the meat and dairy industry — destroying hundreds of millions of jobs.
What will need to shift to balance out these industries and markets so the earth and the economy can thrive?
The reality is that we are currently functioning in an unsustainable way. If we continue down this path we will soon no longer have the resources available to support us in the same manner.
It may not solve our entire climate crisis. It may not even taste exactly like meat. However, cultured meat may help us address one aspect of our current environmental problems while still offering meat options to meat-lovers.