Currently, millions of people greatly depend on traditional meat from livestock grown in meat farms, as they consider it a necessary component of every meal. In fact, according to the National Public Radio, each person in the United States consumes 270.2 pounds of meat each year. However, one drawback to maintaining a largely meat-based diet is that the mass production of meat contributes to global warming or harming the environment with carbon dioxide emissions. In order to address this problem, scientists announced welcoming news: lab-grown meat could be on sale by the end of 2018.
Lab-grown meat, also called cultured meat or vitro meat, is meat obtained from cultured cells instead of animals; in short, it is a form of cellular agriculture. While lab-grown meat is not yet the most appealing choice to people, it, according to environmentalists, has a high chance of reducing global warming by lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Regular meat from animals with ones made from cells would indicate a shift to a more environmentally friendly alternative, and thus reduce bad quality air and prevent temperatures from rising further.
However, although vitro meat has positive implications for the environment, one problem is that cultured meat is difficult to produce through the complicated process called genetic tissue engineering. Genetic tissue engineering begins when scientists collect rapidly proliferating cells –– including embryonic cells, adult stem cells, or myoblasts –– and direct them to grow in a certain way. Afterward, proteins are applied to the cells to promote tissue growth, as they are placed in a culture medium to supply the cells with the energy they need. Finally, the cells are grown on a scaffold to culture edible meat by simulating the animal body during normal development.
Aware of such limitations in the production of cultured meat, scientists discovered new technological advancements to lessen the time and effort it takes to create a lot of vitro meat at once. Improvements in tissue engineering have led not only to the ability to create various organs and muscles, but also to the discovery of a faster and more efficient way of implementing the process on cells to create animal parts. With such developments in medical devices and technology, cultured meat is more likely to become a common part of people’s diets from the end of 2018.
Apart from the complicated process of genetic tissue engineering, another concern was raised regarding the spread of cultured meat in stores. Specifically, people have questioned the new cell-cultured meat, expressing their doubt toward the health and safety conditions of consuming such synthetic foods. In fact, according to Chris Koester, AP Biology teacher, “altering our diet through technology with factors that did not evolve with us – nor go through the process of natural selection – could somehow be just a step too far.” However, contrary to the majority’s belief, lab meat was actually found to be healthier than regular meat, thus serving as a good alternative to the animal meat we currently consume. Moreover, the meat is appropriate to vegans as well, finally providing them a chance to afford meat that is not from animals, but rather grown from stem cells.
“As a vegan, I support the recent innovation of lab-grown meat since it would not only reduce the suffering of factory farmed animals, but also decrease harmful gas emissions and unnecessary water usage,” said Jessica Terbruggen, English teacher. “In addition, growing meat in laboratories could go a long way in reducing hunger and starvation worldwide since a more sustainable way to produce meat could drive the average cost down, providing equitable access to meat to everyone. Ultimately, I believe that lab-grown meat is moving society in a positive direction by potentially eliminating some of the present ethical concerns such as the suffering of other living, sentient beings.”
A question usually raised here by several people is whether lab meat really has a similar taste to regular meat. While many expect cultured meat to shrivel up easily and have less of the juicy, chewy texture to it, people who have tasted it claim that it has the same consistency as animal meat. Thus, because it maintains the same gustatory benefits yet tastes healthier, vitro meat once again is an ideal substitution for animal meat.
As cultured meat has great benefits not only for the environment but also for vegans, stores agreed to sell this new kind of meat by the end of this year. Although there are still several traditionalists who wish to stick to eating regular animal meat, the introduction of vitro meat may mark a huge shift in people’s diets, as more will be willing to eat a healthier, yet still tasty alternative to meat. The food industry is making promising innovations to save the environment and assist people’s diets, and the decision to introduce cultured meat in stores by the end of the year is already a huge step they have taken toward these goals.