Since the 18th century, humans have raised livestock. But over time the industry has changed. We no longer need to butcher our own pig or a cow to get a piece of meat. Now we can just go to the supermarket and choose from a wide variety of products. But as our population grows so does our demand for meat. In order to meet such high demands industries are forced to go to extremes. Though once made for our own benefit and farm factories are now affecting us more than ever. Animals suffer and so does our environment. How can we reduce, firstly, the amounts of toxic gases being released from fertilizers? Secondly, is there any way we could make it more sustainable? And thirdly, how can we ensure these industries are keeping their animals safe? Right now we don’t have definite answers. But the discovery of laboratory grown meat could potentially be one of them. Since its launch, several people have questioned the credibility of this discovery. People question if it’s safe because after all, meat growing in a laboratory feels unnatural and odd. But despite the negative apprehensions, could lab grown meat reach the international market and change people’s perspective in meat?
Now, what exactly is lab grown meat? Laboratory grown meat is exactly as the name suggests, meat grown in a laboratory. It was first created in 2012 by Mark Post.
Chicken, other types of meat and sometimes even different cuts of beef, have their own processes but they all require the basic ingredients such as stem cells and a serum full of nutrients. Stem cells are the building blocks of our body. They are responsible for building our organs and muscles. Small amounts of tissue are dissected and the muscle cell is isolated from the fat cells. That way the cells can be cultured. To “culture” a cell is to create an artificial environment apt for its growth. The cells are fed nutrients such as amino acids and carbohydrates. The cell responds as if it were still in a living body. Thus it replicates into trillions and naturally merge together to become what is called a myotube cell. The myotube cell is transferred to a ring. During their time in the ring the cells contract until they’ve grown into a small strand of muscle tissue. Strands are then layered together to form a patty.
And how does it taste? Volunteers who participated in an Israeli research project found the taste to be the same as regular meat. But the savor is not the fascinating thing here but what it implies to eat this meat. A meat that does not harm animals nor the environment. So many animals have been roughlesly fed antibiotics or died slowly and painfully due to lacking conditions. But lab grown meat demands no more than a laboratory, tools, and zero animal abuse. While factory farms require massive plots of land and as many resources to maintain the fields. And to no one’s surprise it depends on great quantities of land plots and water supply. “Compared to conventional beef, lab-grown beef requires 45% less energy use, 99% less land use, and produces 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions,” says GFC. Moreover, the production of lab grown meat is faster and less costly. And once it becomes normalized it could be found in every market and feed our rapidly growing population. The meat is safer to consume due to sterile laboratory conditions. Thus, the chances of spreading disease and pandemics are reduced. Especially during these times we can all appreciate the importance of clean and virus-free meat.
But unfortunately there are negative effects lab grown meat may bring to our society. Scientists believe the mass production of lab grown meat will stimulate over consumption which leads to obesity. The likelihood of this happening can’t be measured so it’s only up to time. What we can accurately bet on is that there’ll definitely be job losses. Once lab grown meat is learned to be accepted the number of people working in farm factories will decrease. But no need to worry, I confidently believe that farm factories and “real” meat will not vanish from our society. Because real meat has always been part of our diet. Even if the laboratory meat offers the same purposes, there is a sort of attachment we have to the natural world and thus we associate anything laboratory made as unnatural and distasteful. What’ll slow down lab grown meat from becoming the meat of the future is the people’s trust. There is a term to describe human disturbance and anxiety they get when seeing something that is human like but not quite. The uncanny valley is used for robotics but the concept perfectly explains why people turn away from lab grown meat. The goal would be to exactly replicate complex structures like a steak. That way consumers feel more comfortable with the idea of lab grown meat. Replicating more complex structures means somehow replicating the connective tissue, fat, and other qualities that steak has. Therefore this goal will likely be achieved in the far future.
Meat is a luxury that not many of us consider. But the answer here is not to antagonize “real meat” but to humanize our perspective on the cost of getting it. The widespread production of lab grown meat in the international market could potentially feed our growing population and, in an exaggerated way, change our environment. According to the CE Delft this meat of the future will likely be competing in our markets until 2030. But as of last year we can begin to see the rise of lab grown meat because Singapore has become the first country in the world to approve lab grown chicken products by Eats Just’s. Many companies are now hopping into the clean meat wagon such as Aleph Farms, Multus Media, Mosa Meat and Upside Foods, to name a few. Even organizations like PETA whose participants are primarily vegan welcome Lab grown meat. It seems like the world is starting to recognize lab grown meat’s potential. And who knows? Maybe in the future you’ll have lab grown right on your plate.
Ferrel, Matt. (2021) ‘Clean Meat is Almost Here – Lab Grown Meat Explained’ Undecided with Matt Ferrel. Accessed September 24, 2021, https://undecidedmf.com/episodes/clean-meat-is-almost-here-lab-grown-meat-explained
Piper, Kelsey. (2020) ‘Singapore is the first country in the world to approve lab-grown chicken products’ Vox. Accessed September 20, 2021, https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/12/2/22125518/lab-grown-chicken-meat-singapore-bioreactor-approve
(2018) ‘The pros and cons of lab-grown meat’ The Week. Accessed September 18, 2021, https://www.theweek.co.uk/96156/the-pros-and-cons-of-lab-grown-meat
‘What is lab-grown meat?’ GFC Global. Accessed September 18, 2021, https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/thenow/what-is-labgrown-meat/1/