Due to rising awareness about global warming, scientists have been trying to find a sustainable way to produce meat. To their credit, they have been successful in producing cultured meat without slaughtering any animal. Producing this meat requires significantly less land, uses less energy and releases fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the early reviews, lab-grown meat tastes bland in comparison to real meat. It’s also more expensive than real meat but that can change with time. A lab grown hamburger used to cost $325,000 back in the day. Currently, it has dropped to $11 per hamburger. That’s still a lot when you consider that McDonalds sells an average burger for nearly $4. As more and more people accept lab-grown meat as an ethical alternative, the price should become affordable too.
How is lab-grown meat made?
Growing cultured meat is a complex process that begins after stem cells are extracted from an animal (let’s say a cow). These cells are placed in a petri dish along with amino acids and carbohydrates. This allows the cells to multiply and the result is a group of muscle fibers that resembles ground beef.
Lab grown meat was first developed in 2013 and scientists have made vast progress since then. Thanks to its environmental benefits, it is considered as the meat of the future. Since there is no slaughter involved, some vegans support the lab-grown meat culture. Technically though, lab-grown meat cannot be considered vegan as it is developed using animal stem cells.
Benefits of lab-grown meat
Besides the reduced strain on environment, lab-grown meat is kinder to animals and prevents their slaughter. Most of us just enjoy the meat on our plate and don’t think about the inhuman way in which animals are killed. Even before they are slaughtered, they are kept in uncomfortable places and treated with cruelty. Lab-grown meat also prevents the spread of zoonotic diseases like Salmonellosis and Tuberculosis. Unethical vendors also inject the meat with harmful steroids, antibiotics and drugs in order to increase their profit margins.
When will it be available?
Lab-grown meat has already been approved in Singapore (the first country to do so). A restaurant called 1880 has partnered with US based start-up Just Eat to serve cultured meat to its customers. Also, according to a report in Independent, KFC has partnered with Russian firm 3D Printing Solutions to produce lab-grown chicken nuggets. Despite these encouraging developments, it may take more time to enter the mainstream market as a lot of work still needs to be done to improve its taste and affordability.
In an interview with CNBC, Josh Tetrick (owner of Just Eat) highlighted the biggest challenges facing the industry. “The limiting steps to ultimately making this ubiquitous are regulatory approval, scale and consumer education. We can’t just focus on one, we’ve got to focus on all three,” he said.
The Urruda take
At Urruda, we support the lab-grown meat culture because it prevents animal slaughter and is good for the environment. That said, food regulatory bodies should be on their toes to ensure that this meat is safe to consume.