Can Cultured Meat Save the World?

Sustainability Problem

  • Animal husbandry is responsible for more than 14% of greenhouse gas emissions; 65% of those emissions come from raising cattle for beef and dairy.
  • Producing one kilogram of beef uses 15,000 liters of water and adds 300 kilograms of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
  • Livestock and livestock feed occupies up to 30% of the earth’s ice-free land; 1-2 acres of rainforest are clear-cut every second to raise animals; the majority of crops raised are used to feed livestock, not people.
  • 335 million tons of animal waste is generated annually in the US alone. Animal waste is one of the main contributors to water pollution and of dead-zones in rivers and oceans.
  • The world’s population is projected to grow to 9.5 billion by 2060; the global diet has shifted to include more animal protein.

Description of Synthetic or Cultured Meat

  • Although fake meat has been around for decades, it has never successfully entered the market because many products are unpalatable and expensive. The complexity of meat, including the flavor and texture, is difficult to replicate.
  • An emerging method is to grow “animal free” meat. The process begins with the slaughter of an adult cow to extract stem cells, which is use to culture the muscle tissue, and a cow fetus to obtain a serum used to grow the tissue. The DNA from these two animals will be used to grow enough synthetic meat to replace herds of slaughtered cows.
  • Stem cells are fed into a broth consisting of around 100 synthetic nutrients combined with a serum extracted from the cow fetus. As the cells split over the course of a week they form sheets a few millimeters thick. The end result is mixed with other organic compounds, including beet juice, to simulate the texture of beef.
  • Science has not been able to recreate anything resembling steak or chicken, however a beef broth has been produced; it could help feed the world’s growing appetite for animal protein.

Stakeholders

  • Animal farmers
  • Slaughterhouses
  • Meat replicators
  • Meat eaters
  • The environment

Deployment

  • Following additional investments into R&D, “animal free” meat can be produced anywhere using significantly less resources that traditional animal husbandry.
  • The emerging industry’s goal is to create a 25,000 liter bioreactor, large enough to provide meat for up to 10,000 people per year.
  • There are two significant obstacles: the current process is prohibitively expensive and large-scale adoption of replicated meat will take a shift in culture/tastes.

Resources

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One thought on “Can Cultured Meat Save the World?

  1. Great post! I actually just read about this last week. I find it really interesting that this may be a solution to so much land use for animal pastures, however, I have also read that it cost nearly $325,000 to do this experiment, which will definitely create problems to implement on a wide scale.

    Like

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