Two-thirds of today’s farmlands are being used for meat production while developed nations showcase the highest rates of meat consumption per capita. By as soon as 2050, the world population is expected to surpass 9 billion. According to FAO, meat consumption levels are set to mirror such exponential growth of mankind and shall nearly double in a few decades from now.
Although there are millions of farmers employed in livestock production, at this rate of growth, humans will need to avail more land for the cattle. Expanding farmlands and maximizing pressure on the output can have detrimental consequences on earth causing numerous environmental damages from overcrowding to deforestation. Livestock contributes to global warming through unchecked releases of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Moreover, we simply don’t have enough land or water to keep up with ever-increasing meat demand by growing livestock.
Considering the above challenges, our future generations might be left on the edge of food insecurity. This fact leads us to the ultimate conclusion: humans either need to reduce the consumption of meat or alternatively switch to a more efficient way of producing it.
What is cultured meat?
Cultured meat is an efficient and sustainable alternative to slaughtering animals. It refers to the concept of creating meat via cell culture. Everything from muscle cells to fat cells, connective tissue, blood, and other components. The production of cultured meat starts with taking a number of cells from an animal and proliferating them in a nutrient-rich culture medium, where they are capable of multiplying. This growth takes place in a bioreactor, that looks similar to the bioreactors that beer and yogurt are fermented in. There is no genetic modification involved in the process, as the cells do the same as they would normally do within an animal. From a single sample from a cow, 800 million strands of muscle tissues can be produced, that could potentially equal hundreds of pounds of beef.
How is the production of lab-grown meat progressing?
Back in 2013, the world watched Dr. Mark Post create the first-ever lab-grown burger without slaughtering a single animal. However, this small pink patty took around 2 years and over $300’000 to be produced. Since then, the cost of producing synthetic meat has been decreasing. E.g. in 2016, Memphis Meats produced meatballs for $1000. And today, we have a company that has obtained approval for producing and selling lab-grown meat in one of the most forward-thinking countries of the world – Singapore.
How about a synthetic dinner – maybe some chicken bites?
Singapore has been renowned for being the hub for innovation, technology, and a futuristic approach. The state granted San Francisco-based startup “Eat Just” the right to sell its lab-grown chicken on its territory, becoming the world’s first government to allow the sale of synthetic meat. Chicken bites are set to debut in Singapore Restaurant shortly, with successive plans for expansion into dining and retail. The product shall be priced on par with the premium chicken, while the price is expected to fall down in the coming months. Co-Founder and CEO of “Eat Just”, Josh Tetrick, hopes to reach US and European markets in the near future as well.
Implications for the Future
It is undoubtedly that synthetic meat is way more eco-friendly than traditional livestock slaughtering. Having the option of cultured meat basically eliminates the need for maintaining cattle. This fact has several considerable implications. Humans can potentially cut down on energy consumption by as much as 45%, decrease the use of the land and water as well as reduce greenhouse gases.
Moreover, consuming lab-grown meat might as well reduce the risk of food-borne diseases, as well as of those transmitted between the animals. Synthetic meat can easily be supplemented by vitamins and minerals that are not characteristic of the usual meat.
Although we see numerous potential benefits to cultured meat alternatives, several trust issues have been arisen around its consumption, as people usually associate synthetic meat with genetically modified products. Moreover, many argue, that mass production of cultured meat could cause thousands to lose their jobs as well. Some consider that synthetic alternatives could give rise to obesity and cannot provide for the same taste as naturally slaughtered meat.
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