It is a cozy thought to know that those of us who don’t eat meat have “plant-based” or other alternative options at fast-food restaurants. With travel slowly resuming in certain parts of the world, having meatless food available on the go is an exciting prospect. One of the latest developments in the food industry is cultured meat or lab-grown meat. We can call it pseudo meat. On the very first impression, this looks like a genius idea. In simple words, it is meat ‘grown’ in a lab without harming or slaughtering animals. But is it really as brilliant as it sounds?
How is this done? A few stem cells from a live animal are taken, supposedly without harming it. These cells are fed nutrient-rich solutions. The whole process is done in bioreactors until they can be ‘harvested’. It is also known as meat produced by in-vitro cultivation of animal cells. Needless to say, cultivated meat is the future.
We all know the environmental impact of traditional animal farming. Meat production accounts for 70 percent of global water use. Meat is also responsible for 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gases and a considerable portion of our deforestation problem. Lab-grown meat also comes with its own environmental impact. It is expected to produce more CO2 than traditional animal farming. CO2 in the atmosphere does not dissipate quickly. It accumulates over the millennia and causes a huge impact on the atmosphere. Let’s blame mass deforestation for this.
The process of cultivating meat is not entirely cruelty-free either. The stem cells are taken to culture the meat currently requires fetal bovine serum. The way this is obtained raises ethical concerns. Read more about it here. The production of this meat is very expensive. Along with high use of energy for the entire process, the emissions created, the sugar to feed the cells (which comes from corn – land use) and unclear plans to treat the waste created to make us think if lab-grown meat is really better in any way.
According to OneGreen Planet, “29 companies are planning to bring lab-cultured “meat” to market in the form of chicken, beef, pork, seafood, pet food, and beyond. These companies include Memphis Meats, Aleph Farms, Mosa Meat, Meatable, SuperMeat, and Finless Foods. These companies are backed by huge investments from meat industry corporations (Cargill and Tyson), venture capitalist firms (Blue Yard Capital, Union Square Ventures, S2G Ventures, and Emerald Technology Ventures), and billionaires (such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson).”
The biggest risk we are looking at is the risk of cancer. While we call it lab-grown meat, in the food industry the apt name for it is cultured cell-based meat. This is actually a step further than processed meat. The entire process of production is genetic engineering. They have huge potential for cancer-promoting properties. The production method uses genetic constructs called onco-genes to keep the stem cells growing. This is not a problem for lab experiments, but a big problem for the food industry. The International Agency of Research on Cancer which is a part of WHO has deemed processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans.” In other words, cultured meat can be harmful to human health even more than processed meat.
While the idea of lab-grown meat sounds futuristic and inevitably be sold in supermarkets, its environmental and health impact is nothing to be excited about. We are moving into a world where eating meat will remain normal while slaughtering animals will be taboo. We will forever depend on huge corporations to satisfy our basic need for meat – knowing that it isn’t helping the Earth or our health. We can choose to do it by reducing meat intake and slowing down the consumption, instead of getting our nutrition from a vegetarian/vegan diet.
At Green Schools Green Future, we support the idea of innovation by working in harmony with nature. We believe that children are our future and their health should be nourished with real healthy and nutritious food. To know more about our project, click here. To help our cause and donate, click here.
Written By Kritika Rao