Would synthetic meat be better for us and the planet?
“On Earth today, it’s Thanksgiving. If the crew has to eat
synthetic meat loaf, I want it to look like turkey.”
A pioneering group of scientists are working to grow real animal protein in the laboratory, which they not only claim is better for animal welfare, but actually healthier, both for people and the planet. It may sound like science fiction, but this technology to create in-vitro meat could be changing global diets within ten years.
“Cultured meat would have a lot of advantages,” said Jason Matheny of research group New Harvest. “We could precisely control the amount of fat in meat. We could make ground beef with an ideal fatty acid ratio — a hamburger that prevents heart attacks instead of causing them.”
But it isn’t just the possibility of creating designer ground beef with the fat profile of salmon that drives Matheny’s work. Meat and livestock farming is also the source of many human diseases, which he claims would be far less common when the product is raised in laboratory conditions.
“We could reduce the risks of diseases like swine flu, avian flu, ‘mad cow disease’, or contamination from Salmonella,” he told CNN. “We could produce meat in sterile conditions that are impossible in conventional animal farms and slaughterhouses. And when we grow only the meat we can eat, it’s more efficient. There’s no need to grow the whole animal and lose 75 to 95 percent of what we feed it.”
In this context Matheny believes his project could significantly cut the environmental impact of meat production — using much less water and producing far fewer greenhouse gases.
“We could reduce the environmental footprint of meat, which currently contributes more to global warming than the entire transportation sector,” says Matheny.
Between mediocre sci-fi movies and timorous vegetarians it will take an advertising campaign comparable to that which introduced the navel orange – or the hybrid automobile – coupled with lower prices to achieve any success. Not that I’m pressimistic – just cynical.
Just look at how many years we’ve been farting around with irradiated food – always seeking another excuse to put off a cost effective solution to a great deal of food spoilage.