Are you repulsed by the idea of lab-grown meat? The very thought is uncomfortable for a lot of people. It’s seen as unnatural, often called “frankenmeat” and perceived as a perversion of the purity of natural meat. I do not hold these views. Not only do I think there is nothing wrong with cultured meat, I think this is the way of the future, due to potential health benefits, environmental effects and more ethical treatment of animals.
This is not some speculative science fiction talk. Cultured (or in vitro) meat exists. Companies like Memphis Meats are on the frontline of this technology. By utilizing stem cell technology, the company can culture meats including beef, pork and chicken. By adding a protein that promotes tissue growth, tons of meat can be made from only a few cells. The major factor keeping this product out of stores is the cost. However, the price of producing the meat is lowering over time — and it won’t be long until its prices compete with those of natural meat products.
Cultured meat is not that different than normal meat. It is produced from naturally occurring cells. The difference is cultured meat is healthier. Red meats have been found to increase risks of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and even Alzheimer’s disease. By culturing the meat, the factors that cause health problems can be removed. For example, L-carnitine is a substance that is found naturally in red meat that causes hardening of blood vessels and increases the risk for heart disease. That and many other things can be removed to decrease the negative health effects that result from eating red meat. In addition to getting rid of negative aspects of consuming meat, you can also add healthy elements, such as adding omega-3 fatty acid which you can find in other meats like salmon.
In the factory farm system, animals are stuffed together in filthy and cramped conditions. As a result, animals get sick and their meat becomes contaminated. To combat this, animals are given antibiotics to prevent disease. This presents health problems in humans such as superbugs, that could be resistant to antibiotics. Since cultured meat is grown in sterilized lab conditions, it is very clean.
The next reason cultured meat is the way of the future is the environmental benefits. Agriculture is a major contributor to global warming and environmental damage. According to an analysis by the United Nations, cattle agriculture alone causes 65 percent of nitrous oxide pollution. Nitrous oxide from cattle manure has 296 times the Global Warming Potential of CO2. In addition to this, the study found that cattle farming contributes to 37 percent of human-related methane (23 times the Global Warming Potential of CO2) emissions and is a leading cause of ammonia pollution, which is a contributor to acid rain.
Cattle farming now also takes up 30 percent of the Earth’s land surface and 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been turned to farmland. Researchers have found that cultured meat would require miniscule amounts of land compared to big agriculture — and the production process would be a significantly smaller contributor to CO2 emissions.
When you see the conditions of animals and the clear environmental damage, it is hard to make a case that our current methods are ethical and need no change. With our increasing knowledge of the damage we are doing to the planet — and our increasing ability to make a change to combat these problems — it is an ethical imperative that we change our ways. The technology is coming to really make a difference on this issue. If we do not act, we are denying the people of tomorrow the healthy and bright future that everyone deserves.
We do not need things to be wholly natural to make healthier decisions for the Earth and our health. Even factory farming isn’t natural when you consider farming conditions, growth hormones and genetic modification. Our current path in the meat industry is an unnatural and immoral monster that is wreaking havoc on our planet. We have the means to make a difference. Even if the thought of cultured meats makes you uneasy, look at the science behind the issue. It is clear something needs to be done.