Sounds like sci-fi, right? Not quite. Lab grown food is already known to us. More specifically, we’re used to having food such as cultured yoghurt and hydroponic vegetables grown for us in pristine, nutrient-rich environments. But be amazed, meat-eaters, the future is now: the first lab-grown beef burger was devoured in 2013.
Using the biologica marvels that are stem cells, small strips of meat without fat can be produced, so its lean, meaning we won’t be seeing any fully formed fillet steaks in the near future (unfortunately). Food writer Mr Schonwald described the 2013 burger in the following words: “The mouthfeel is like meat. I miss the fat, there’s a leanness to it, but the general bite feels like a hamburger.” A promising start. In the future we may see fat and omega-3 added to the meat, adjustments for taste and health.
“Diseases, death, and decay cannot spread in a maintained laboratory the way they can on a factory farm or at a live-animal market”
Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: “This is meat to me. It’s not falling apart.” Room for improvement then, but not bad. With current technology it is predicted that we could produce such beef on an industrial scale at $30 a pound of weight. Now, that’s still relatively pricey, but technology is set to improve, and there are many more reasons to start eating from a petri-dish instead of a carcass.
Let’s be clear: Animal agriculture is destroying the climate and the Earth. 18% of newly-produced greenhouse gases come from farming animals for food, much of this carbon dioxide through mass deforestation. Animals also produce a lot of methane from digestion, and the cesspools created by their waste accounts for 65% of nitrous-oxide emissions. To add salt to the wound, animal farming uses up 30% of the planet’s land mass and 1 pound of animal flesh needs 16 pounds of grain to grow; those crops could go to our 1 billion starving people. Lab-grown meat is, thankfully, overwhelmingly more efficient, and absolutely critical to eating meat in any sort of sustainable way. We can produce lab meat on a land area equal to 1% of the area required for conventional meat production. Converting fully away from animals cuts water use by use 96% and energy consumption by 45%, while scientists estimate that industrialised cultured meat production would generate 78-96% less greenhouse gas than conventional factory farming. The figures speak for themselves: Cultured meat production is critical to ending starvation and climate change.
Still not convinced? Well, our current factory farming is also exposing us to food poisoning and antibiotic-resistant super-plagues. Conventional meat farming keeps animals in filthy, cramped, and sweltering conditions, where its common for animals to drop dead beside each other, which is perfect for the breeding of microbes such as your favourite lethal pathogens including, but not limited to, E. coli, campylobacter, and salmonella. These can poison your cheeseburger if the ammonia-bath meat goes through isn’t thorough enough. Diseases, death, and decay cannot spread in a maintained laboratory the way they can on a factory farm or at a live-animal market. This means that cultured meat can be free of the antibiotics that permeate much animal flesh, given to animals to keep them alive in rancid conditions. The mass medication of these animals is helping in producing ‘super’ pathogens completely resistant to antibiotics, which can of course spread to unaware, helpless humans.
“Cultured meat would also prevent the mass suffering of animals kept in these awful conditions, existing in a form of torture until their often botched and painful slaughter”
If you hadn’t already guessed, cultured meat would also prevent the mass suffering of animals kept in these awful conditions, existing in a form of torture until their often botched and painful slaughter; chickens who miss being beheaded are boiled alive for McNuggets. So, until we can get poultry from a petri dish, yours truly is sticking to salad.