The meat industry is massive in its scope worldwide, yet, as the world’s population steadily increases agriculture-based animal farms cannot meet the demand for meat. It is increasing consistently (it’s estimated to grow another 8% between 2011-2020 in North America alone) and another option is needed to be able to keep up with consumers.
Food technology companies have been researching more sustainable ways to provide food for a global population soon to hit 8 billion people. Laboratory-grown meat protein may be one of the best solutions for meat lovers as it saves actual livestock, and decreases the amount of grains needed to feed them which can then be used for human consumption instead. The positive impact on the environment is tremendous not to mention the cost-savings involved for the meat producers.
But are consumers ready for lab-grown meats?
This is the question faced by Memphis Meats and other companies leading the way in the creation of meat made from animal cells in a laboratory. After receiving a large donation from investors that include Bill Gates and Richard Branson, Memphis Meats is only one of the companies that is trying to take the meat industry toward ‘clean-meats’ and it has already produced beef, chicken and duck directly from animal cells.
The stem cells are taken from real animals and cultured in a lab to create the meat. Lab-grown meats will also limit the need for factory farming, in which the animals are often kept in poor conditions.
Lab-grown meats for consumers seems promising as it’s getting harder for meat processors to meet demand at a reasonable price. It is expected that lab-grown meat will not entirely replace farmed meat, but can be another option that may appeal to a specialized market of consumers put off by added hormones, antibiotics, and traditional meat processing and already preferring to purchase meat that is organically-produced and sustainable.
There are several perceived health benefits with ‘clean-meats’ that may appeal to this group of consumers. Since the meat is created and grown in a controlled lab environment, this allows for certain things to be added or left out of the mix. Things like saturated fat, antibiotics, and animal-borne pathogens can be avoided or at least controlled. Extending the health benefits to the environment, the making of clean-meat compared to regular meat uses less energy, land, and water, and produces less greenhouse emissions.
As great as the perceived benefits to lab-grown meats are, it is still too early to be able to discern the real environmental and health impacts regardless of the studies already performed.
Memphis Meats and its competitors forecast their lab-grown meats will be hitting grocery stores and restaurants within the next few years.