The human race is consuming the planet’s resources at an alarming rate, ravaging the Earth to fuel our consumerist society at a level never before been seen. If the Earth’s entire 4.5-billion-year history was scaled down into just one year, all of human existence would number 37 minutes. In only the past 0.2 seconds of those figurative 37 minutes, humans have depleted over one third of all natural resources on Earth. From these numbers alone, it is clear that drastic change must be made in human consumption, or there will be no resources left to exploit.
Fortunately, environmental awareness appears to be increasing, especially among younger generations. As people have grown more aware of the impact of their actions on the planet, there has been an upsurge of support for vegetarian and vegan diets to reduce the environmental burden associated with rearing livestock.
Many people may want to forego the usage of animal products out of environmental concern. However, it can be difficult to adhere to such dietary restrictions, especially after a lifetime of eating meat. A remarkable idea poses a solution to both the environmental implications of producing meat and the struggle of giving up this tasty and popular protein source: cell-based meat.
What if there was a way to produce a slice of raw steak or a chicken breast without ever having to raise or kill an animal? Well, that is exactly what the innovators behind cell-based meat are doing. Also referred to as “cultured” or “clean” meat, cell-based meat can be grown entirely in a factory, through a process that begins with self-replicating stem cells.
With a scaffolding to mold tissue formation and a medium rich in nutrients and factors for cell growth, these cells can readily transform into a piece of meat. This operation can be expanded to take place in massive “cultivators”, akin to fermenting tanks in which yeast cells give rise to beer. A number of organizations are currently experimenting with this technology in an attempt to create animal products and byproducts such as beef, pork, fish, egg whites, gelatin and leather.
Memphis Meats is one such company making progress on the concept. With support from investors such as Bill Gates and Tyson Foods, Memphis Meats aims to create a pilot facility equipped with cell-based meat cultivators to bring production to a much larger scale.
However, the undertaking is not without complications. For starters, cell-based meat manufacturing is currently too costly to market to the average consumer. This is partially due to the high expense of the growth medium. Furthermore, researchers must face the challenge of imbuing cell-based meat with the taste and texture profile characteristic of traditional meat.
Fortunately, researchers are addressing these concerns: Memphis Meats is among the companies that claim to be on track to a sellable price. Other investigators assert that while taste is not the current focus, enhancing the flavor of cell-based meat will be a relatively simple task once the large-scale production process is cemented.
Growing meat in an animal-free facility is a clever solution to the many problems associated with the creation of traditional meat and animal products. Not only would this method alleviate some of the environmental destruction of livestock farming, cell-based meat could also lessen animal cruelty. Animals are often raised and slaughtered under deplorable conditions to reduce costs and increase efficiency of meat production. If cell-based meat becomes an accessible reality, less animals would be subjected to such treatment. Ideally, livestock farmers would have smaller flocks to worry about and thus be able to focus on improving conditions for those animals. The success of cell-based meat would be a major step forward for the wellness of the entire planet.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @mio6556 from Unsplash.com
Veronica Eskander is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.