With modern factory farming creating an enormous strain on water resources while contributing a huge amount of greenhouse gasses to the ever warming environment, people are starting to finally see that modern meat production is unsustainable. The U.N. recommends switching to a plant-based diet in order to begin eradicating some of these issues, but could there be room in those recommendations for meat that’s been produced more sustainably. Say, in a lab, for instance?
That’s the question scientists have been trying to answer over the last several years as they’ve attempted to recreate meat just by using animal cells. Starting with beef, researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands managed to produce a $300,000 hamburger by combining individual muscle fibers to produce a whole piece of meat. Funny how that’s still less of a science experiment than a fast food burger. Just sayin’.
Pink slime. ‘Nuff said.
Now researchers are looking to get chicken on the menu. Bioengineer and professor Amit Gefen of Tel Aviv University is currently attempting to produce one entire piece of chicken using a single cell. Backed by non-profit group Modern Agriculture Foundation, co-founder Shir Friedman is aiming to develop a recipe to culture chicken cells by the end of the year.
For those that choose to eschew meat because they find the taste and texture off-putting, this innovation isn’t going to set their world on fire. But, for those who’ve chosen to eliminate burgers and nuggets from their lives, due to the ethical issues surrounding factory farming practices or the environmental impact those practices come with, may be more interested. Could producing meat humanely in a test tube replace modern practices? More importantly: Would consumers be willing to make the switch?
We just…we don’t…hmmmm….
Only time will tell, but one thing remains clear in the midst of these innovative efforts. The scientific community is taking the idea of food sustainability seriously, which means finding alternatives to the ever growing demand for meat that is putting such an enormous strain on the planet and all of its resources. With global demand for meat expected to double between 2000 and 2050 and laboratory produced meat requiring no land usage, 96 percent less water and producing 96 percent fewer carbon emissions than its contemporary counterparts, exploring the option makes perfect sense.
As does promoting the other more sustainable innovations that require no meat at all, in cellular form or otherwise. Companies like Beyond Meat, Sweet Earth and Hampton Creek are innovating ways to produce traditional animal-based foods purely with plant sources, instead of trying to make animal sources better.
Without knowing what the future might bring, the best way to make a difference, be it ecologically or compassionately, using our current means is to eat locally and as close to plant-based as possible. There’s no current need to make a carrot grown around the corner more environmentally friendly in a lab. Again, just sayin’.