When it comes to thinking about our food system, few people ever stop and question how their choices are impacting the world around them. We just see a cheeseburger or a plate of salad and rarely stop to think beyond that. But what if we told you the way food is produced is a major problem for the environment?
Well, animal agriculture is at the heart of our current environmental crisis with a majority of the world’s land and water resources going into livestock system and returning nothing but pollution, dead zones, and massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. And yet, one in eight people still suffer from food scarcity.
Unfortunately, it seems we are doing a much better job at feeding the 20-odd billion farm animals raised for meat and dairy on the planet than we are people. And most frighteningly, our pursuit of expanding animal agriculture is putting our future food security at great risk.
But one organization is hoping to change all that. New Harvest is a non-profit research institute that was founded in 2004 that works on, “spearheading the next agricultural revolution: Cellular Agriculture.” Meaning that New Harvest is striving to make milk, eggs, meat, leather, fur, or any animal product you can think of from cell cultures rather than from animals.
The idea of cellular agriculture as the solution to how we can sustainably feed a population of 9.6 billion by 2050 is finally starting to take hold. In fact, it is catching on so much so that the front page of Imgur recently featured the story of a New Harvest scientist who has been working on a lab-grown chicken nugget for the past year. And the post is going viral!
Be ready to be amazed…
The scientist said on Imgur that she, “used a plant-based scaffold (jackfruit) to give the product a meatier texture and appearance than your average processed nugget.” Welcome to the future of food!
How real does her “meat” on the right look!?
On Imgur she explained, “A little over a year ago, I was funded by New Harvest, a non-profit organization that supports cellular agriculture research. Since then, I have been optimizing large scale production of avian muscle for the purpose of cultured poultry.”
She began her process “by taking a small biopsy, about the size of ½ of a grain of rice. This can be performed under anesthesia by a veterinarian, so the animal won’t feel or remember a thing!”
From there, you isolate the muscle stem cells, which begin to exponentially grow under the right cell culture conditions. The cells have to be kept in the same type of environment they would normally live in when inside an animal (same temperature, pH, nutrients, etc.). Here are the cell culture flasks for animal bodies.
Once you have enough cells to make a meal, you stop feeding them. This causes, “the muscle stem cells to stop growing, fuse together, and form small muscle fiber precursors, called myotubes.” This is the microscopic view of turkey muscle cells.
Next step: harvest the cells! Enjoy your clean, sustainable and humane, 100% animal muscle.
According to this fantastic researcher, because of the muscle stem cell’s ability to exponentially double, tons of millions of muscle could be grown in less than three months, all from a single biopsy.
Although cellular agriculture meat probably won’t be hitting the shelves for a few more years, this technology is a game changer. New Harvest is still working out the kinks for how to sustainably and affordably feed the cells with animal-free media. They also need to figure out how to scale-up production, so until then, New Harvest needs all the support they can get. Check out their website here to learn more about this amazing new sustainable technology.
With more people choosing to leave meat and dairy off their plates, the world has simply been waiting for one, or a handful, of great alternatives to come about and revolutionize the food system. Mainly people want plant-based food can be a delicious and serve as a sustainable way to #EatForthePlanet.
While we wait for New Harvest products to hit the shelves, you can start eating for the planet right now by choosing a delicious plant-based meal over one laden with animal products. If you look at it from a personal perspective, you can cut your own carbon footprint in half just by leaving meat off your plate for one year. (Plus save a lot of water, redirect grain for people to eat, and help protect endangered species…)
You can #EatForThePlanet starting today. Just follow the three simple steps below.
1. Moderate: Limit consumption of your favorite meats like beef, lamb, pork, etc.
2. Replace: Try to swap animal-based products in your daily diet with vegan alternatives (milk, butter, mayo, cheese, grilled chicken, beef crumbles, sausages, cold cuts, etc.)
3. Embrace: Add plant-based whole foods (local and organic when possible) to your diet like greens, fresh fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins like lentils, nuts/seeds, beans, tofu, etc.
As Nil Zacharias, the co-founder of One Green Planet says, “Eat in a way that nourishes you without starving the planet.”
We all have the power to create a better future for our children, and the countless animals we share the planet with, by making one easy swap. If you’re ready to start doing this in your own life, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.
Image source: hugthegiraffe/Imgur