With the ever-growing population, there is a constant search for more sustainable food options to feed a future generation. With many arguing that meat has a harmful effect on the environment, vegan and vegetarian diets have become more popular than ever before. But there seems to be another alternative – lab-grown meat.
Meat production has seen its fair share of challenges. In many regions, the soil is not suitable for crop growth, so raising beef is the only suitable farming method. But unless you have been living under a rock, you also know that beef production has been getting a lot of bad media. You’ve probably heard the harmful effects of animal methane, and the pressure beef production puts on the environment. The discussion would be a very long conversation, so for the purpose of this article, we will only be focusing on lab-grown meat!
Because lab-grown meat is still in the early stages – research can take many years – the real term for it is not yet established. Some call it ‘clean’ meat, cell-based meat, cultured meat, or how we like to call it – lab-grown meat.
So how is it made? Basically, stem cells are taken from animal muscle tissue and placed in a growth medium that has all the nutrients necessary for growth (amino acids, vitamins, minerals and additional trade secret ingredients).
The product you end up with is a food that resembles hamburger or chicken breast both in taste and texture. This means you get to eat your meat without harming animals. So why opt for lab-grown meat? Well, researchers say it’s more humane to animals, healthier, and also more sustainable for the planet. There are still some ethical questions surrounding animal welfare, especially since the product starts out with animal tissue. But it’s early days, and so far, even PETA is supporting the idea.
Even though the research has come a long way, it might still be a few years (even a few decades) before you will be able to buy your lab-origin beef burger.
A Californian company called JUST, has already set out to have their cultured chicken nuggets and Wagyu beef on the shelf by next year. The chicken nuggets, said to have the texture of firm tofu and Play-Doh, will set you back $50! Several companies including Mosa Meat, Memphis Meats, and Supermeat, are now also focusing on what they call cellular agriculture. They are still waiting for the government’s approval, but manufacturers believe it’s the customer’s acceptance that will be the most difficult to gain.
If you are a meat eater, you can still make a few changes to make your lifestyle more sustainable. Jamie Oliver, well-known chef and cookbook author, says that you should eat less meat, and when you do eat meat, make sure you buy the best quality you can afford. Choose organic, free-range and high-welfare meat – it’s not only good for your health, but also good for the planet.
While there are many potential positives to lab-grown meat – such as the reduced methane production, no harming of animals, etc. – others are wondering what new set of challenges will come with this method. Ingredients and production facilities will need to be verified, but would companies want to disclose their closely guarded trade secrets? Only time will tell.