Imagine ordering a cheeseburger, or a steak, at your favorite restaurant, without harming a single animal, destroying factory farming AND dramatically reducing the threat of Global Warming.
Empty promises or a new revolution in the way humans eat?
Enter ‘Clean Meat’.
In my opinion, the most exciting issue in nutrition, science technology and the future of our planet! Lab-grown Meat is quickly becoming the hottest topic in Silicon Valley, with billionaire investors such as Bill Gates and Cargill jumping on board in a bid to, ethically and sustainably, feed our growing population.
‘Clean Meat’ is grown in labs without the slaughter of animals.
First, technicians take a small muscle sample from a host animal, for example a Cow. They then filter the sample to isolate cells, such as stem cells, which they can then multiply and grow in a lab with the use of oxygen, salts, sugars and proteins, currently supplied by the same species blood serum. This means the process still involves animals, however companies such as ‘Just, Inc’ are close to finding alternative plant-based serum solutions, which are vastly cheaper to produce and harmless to animals.
What’s not to like, right?
However, cost and ethics are not the only barriers to consumer viability. Another hurdle is the resemblance of the product to other meat products.
Companies can create separate protein, fat and connective tissues however, they cannot currently grow, for example, a full T-bone steak or Gammon Joint as a whole piece. Current ‘Clean Meat’ products look more like beef mince or collections of separate tissue samples. This is of great concern as no matter how revolutionary the product, the public will not convert if the switch is too far from the norm or if products trigger a food ‘uncanny value effect’, where our brains our hardwired for us to recognize and detest tiny subtle differences in recognizable foods as a safeguard from poisons, contaminants and disease.
It may not be quite there yet, however if Clean Meat companies can pull it off, it may drastically change the way humans and animals co-exist.
The human race currently keeps 23,000,000,000 chickens, 1,500,000,000 cows, 1,000,000,000 pigs and another 1,000,000,000 sheep, of which we kill 200,000,000 each and every day. Most of these animals are slaughtered via ‘factory farming’, an inefficient process where the torture and suffering of animals is disregarded as a means of supplying our insatiable appetite for meat products.
Could ‘Clean Meat’ end this cruel and inhumane practice?
Companies like ‘Mosa Meat’ definitely think so, claiming a yield of 80,000 quarter pounders from a single animal muscle tissue sample and not a single animal death, exciting the likes of animal rights activists, with leading Vegan organizations, such as PETA (people for the ethical treatment of animals) showing their support for lab-grown meat products.
Clean Meat is also potentially a lot ‘eco-friendlier’ than its factory farming counterpart, as it requires much less land, water and energy to produce higher yields of meat products.
Currently, 1kg of steak costs 25kg of grain and 15,000 liters of water to produce, and meat production as whole, predominantly via factory farming, contributes 27% of our total worldwide water consumption and 18% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions (the second largest contributor) - greatly increasing the risk of global warming, which has recently been reported ‘irreversible’, if we do not seriously act within the next 10-years.
If ‘Clean Meat’ companies can fulfill their promises, and our need for meat products can be satiated via more efficient and economical means, then this may be a vital strand to humankinds’ strategy for combating our planets greatest concern.
Another advantage of ‘Clean Meats’ is that is drastically lowers our exposure to anti-biotics, and thus could halt the growing issue of anti-biotic resistance and ‘super bugs’.
Currently 80% of American anti-biotics are used to keep cattle healthy and disease-free, which is then consumed by us when we eat these animal products, hence the dramatic increases in cases of anti-biotic resistance and deaths via hospital ‘super bugs.
Clean Meat could curb this epidemic uprising, as meat products grown in labs are no longer subject to disease and harmful bacteria, thus reducing the need for anti-biotics and other chemicals and pesticides.
What may be seen as an ‘un natural’ process, may well be more natural and chemical free than its traditional form.
Lab-grown ‘Clean Meat’ is not actually a new development. People have been able to grow edible meat from the stem cells of an animal muscle sample since 2013, however at that point one beef burger patty cost roughly $320,000 dollars to make and was (apparently) dry and texture-less.
Today, companies such as Memphis Meats claim they can produce a quarter-pound of tasty beef mince for $600 and Just, Inc’s CEO, Josh Tetrick, claims they can produce meat products at a fraction of that cost and hope to be serving to the public within the next 12-months.
If the trend continues and companies can find alternative sources to the costly animal blood serum, as mentioned above, I am sure it will not be long until we are browsing competitive ‘Clean Meat’ products alongside traditional sources.
Will people buy it?
Given the advantages, it would seem crazy to think the public would refuse such a revolutionary shift in food. However, recent polls suggest over 60% of the general public would not switch their beloved traditional animal meat for lab-grown ‘Clean Meat’, largely due to concerns about safety and the fear of what they are actually putting inside their mouths.
Clearly the FSIS (U.S Food Safety and Inspection Services) have a job screening and testing potential products, and companies such as Memphis Meats and Just,Inc have a monumental task convincing the world that ‘Clean Meat’ is the future.