In June 2023, the announcement that the USDA had authorized two companies to sell lab-grown meat was drowned out in a cacophony of news. The news followed the FDA’s conclusion that lab-grown meat is safe for human consumption. GOOD Meat and UPSIDE Foods, two companies that have been working on various types of lab-grown meat, including steak, seafood and pork, have now been given regulatory approval for chicken.
The big question is: Why do we need lab-grown meat? We have a multi-billion dollar meat industry and it looks like we won’t be running out of food anytime soon. Human population is increasing and so is meat consumption. Meat consumption has increased from 45 million tonnes per year in 1950 to an astonishing 300 million tonnes per year today, and if nothing changes, it will double to 600 million tonnes by 2050. It is expected. It may not make sense, but currently 80 billion animals (10 times the human population) are slaughtered annually for their meat. You don’t need to be a math whiz to understand that over time, as the population grows, the supply of meat will be exceeded.
If that doesn’t pique your taste buds, what about greenhouse gases and climate change? Food production accounts for a third of global warming gases from human activity, with meat production accounting for a third of greenhouse gas emissions. It accounts for 60%. Emissions come from agricultural land needed to produce feed, methane gas emissions, and deforestation. Depending on the paper you read, eating one pound of beef is equivalent to driving 30 miles for him, producing about 70 kg of emissions. These numbers don’t seem that big, but when he scales up the amount of meat consumed annually to 300 million tons, the toll on the planet becomes extraordinary. Lab-grown meat is an energy-intensive process, but if renewable energy sources are used to produce lab meat, it could have an impact on climate change.
Meat is essentially animal muscle, a combination of muscle cells, connective tissue, blood vessels, and fat in varying proportions. Lab meat begins by harvesting stem cells from living or freshly slaughtered animals (this may address halal/kosher preferences). Stem cells are primary cells that can differentiate into specialized cells. The cells are then placed in a large bioreactor and fed with a medium that mimics conditions inside the animal. Changing the proportions of the culture causes the cells to differentiate into muscle, fat, and connective tissue. These cells require a scaffold, which is an edible material, and the cells are placed on the scaffold in different proportions to help the cells further mature into specific meat. We have the meat of your choice. As you can see, this is a difficult and expensive process. Lab-grown meat currently costs $17 per pound, and capturing 1 percent of the protein market would require the fermentation capacity of 88 to 176 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to McKinsey & Co. The company estimates.
But isn’t natural meat healthier? That’s true, but what is nature anymore? Commercially produced meat is far from natural, as antibiotics are used to fight animal diseases and the meat is artificially fed large amounts of feed. Although the use of low-dose steroids in cattle is approved by the FDA, steroids are not used in poultry. If you get lab-grown meat right, you can fit it into a healthier diet. Given that most chronic diseases, including but not limited to diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and cancer, ultimately have a dietary component, the public is already craving healthy alternatives. Masu.
As humans, we naturally complicate our diets. It’s one of life’s few pleasures. There are many books, films, and columns about gastronomy and the multibillion-dollar economy that supports it. From a pure science perspective, this is more fundamental. Whatever we eat is eventually broken down into sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids. The human body needs food to produce the energy it needs to sustain us. Food quality is determined by digestibility and the quality of amino acids and fatty acids. Taste is a brain function that helps us eat, but if we are not given food, we will eat it no matter what it tastes like. If we get the next generation of meat right, this could be where we can have our cake and eat it too.
arab dinesh I’m a cardiologist.