While climate change is a controversial topic, most have agreed that one of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and its negative impact on the planet is meat production. Raising cows for meat consumption is a heavy burden on the planet’s resources, making the case for lab-grown meat all the more compelling.
With emerging economies like that of China’s placing greater demand for meat and, thus, strain on natural resources, the need for alternative meat sources is escalating. Environmentalists have long been warning the industry that the production of beef, as well as poultry and pork, is unsustainable and dangerously detrimental to the planet and its climate.
Other organizations, such as PETA, which fight for animal rights, argue that it is unethical and unnecessary to kill animals for food consumption and have long advocated against consuming animal products.
A number of start-up companies have entered the scene with the hopes of creating a meat alternative that can greatly reduce the negative impact of traditional meat manufacturing and resolve the moral dilemma of eating meat. The challenge for these companies is to create a faux meat product that actually looks and tastes like traditional meat so that typical meat eaters are satisfied.
While companies like Beyond Meat have created plant-based alternatives to meat, new start-up companies, such as Mosa Meat, have been using living cells from animals to create their meat substitute. Those living cells are fed and grown in a lab to create cultured meat, or synthetic meat, that may eventually replace traditional meat products around the world.
The animal does not need to be killed or fed with antibiotics for the production of this meat. Instead, a small biopsy of cells is taken from the animal and is used to synthetically produce meat in a lab.
Companies like Mosa Meat predict their product will hit markets in 2021, although the price tag on this meat may be a bit high in the beginning. The goal for these companies, however, is to increase the scale of their operations to a point where this kind of meat substitute will be available in many restaurants and markets worldwide at a price that’s much less than what meat is sold for now.
Traditional meat manufacturers who produce their meat through farming have tried to lobby against companies like Beyond Meat and Mosa Meat from labeling their products with the terms “meat” or “beef,” but have been unsuccessful so far in their attempts.
While lab-grown meat has not been made commercially available yet, it is definitely on its way to being so. The idea that you could walk into a restaurant in the next three years and order a burger with lab-grown meat in it is not far from reality. While scientists predict this will be a positive breakthrough in reducing the harmful impact of meat manufacturing on the planet, time will only tell just how viable lab-grown meat will be in both its impact and availability to consumers.