The last decade has seen an explosion in the alternative protein space, and one of the new meat contenders is the cultivation of animal cells for human consumption — commonly referred to as ‘lab-grown’ or ‘cultured’ meat.
The idea of cultured meat is not a new one. Already in 1931 Winston Churchill speculated that growing meat will replace the “absurdity” of farming whole animals. It’s easy for us to imagine coming generations looking back deploringly on our factory farming practices, and for many, a more ethical future for humanity is tied closely to animal emancipation. There’s also the question of environmental cost: land availability, energy use, water use, and waste — all of which need to be considered as we move towards a society defined by sustainability.
It was in the Netherlands in the 1990s that the first patent for producing a cultured beef burger was granted, and subsequently, the Dutch government awarded a team of researchers €2 million to pursue further research. By the end of 2018, the Dutch company Mosa Meats managed to slash the cost of a 140g burger to €500.
NGOs like The Good Food Institute aim to provide funding for public good scientific research, including recent support for a cell-line repository in Norway.
Another area of active research has been the modelling of environmental impact, a need given the increasing emphasis on cultured meats being more sustainable than conventional meats. A 2011 study found that cultured meat production used 99% less land and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 90%,
The logic behind the drive for cultured meats is often reduced to one of “make it cheaper than conventional meat, of good quality and better for the environment, and the consumers will respond.
Unlike plant-based protein alternatives, lab-grown meat will, eventually, provide bio-equivalence: i.e. a cut of meat no different to one derived from an animal on the molecular level. But why is this necessary? Plant protein companies like Impossible Foods are generating products that look, feel and taste like meat, and they’re already available and aiming for the same target market: meat eaters with an ethical scratch to itch.
“Next-generation protein isn’t about creating more — it’s about making meat better. It lets us provide for a growing and wealthier world without contributing to deforestation or emitting methane. It also allows us to enjoy hamburgers without killing any animals.” Bill Gates, Gatesnotes
- Original Source: https://medium.com/your-science/the-promise-of-lab-grown-meat-64166e19432