Manufactured Beef and Other Delicacies

Here is the problem: There are now seven billion people in the world. They consume 259 million tons of meat a year. Meat production uses 70% of the world’s agricultural land, including land used for growing the grains to feed the animals. By 2050 there will be nine billion people, average consumption is expected to increase, and estimated demand for meat production will increase to 455 million tons a year. There is not enough agricultural land to accommodate that increase.

The technology that gave us stem cell science and tissue engineering has been applied to producing beef in labs. With financing from Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, the first burger was produced in 2013 at a cost of $330,000. Work since then has reduced the price to about $11 for a burger.

Dr. Mark Post, a professor at Eindhoven Technical University in the Netherlands, was one of the leaders in the research. He has formed a company, Mosa Meat, to bring lab-produced meat to the market. Two other new companies, Memphis Meats in the U.S. and SuperMeat in Israel, are working on their own lab-produced meat products. According to an NBC News report, Tyson Foods, the largest U.S. meat company, is investing in “innovative approaches to protein products.” Memphis Meats expects it will sell pork and chicken as well as beef that taste identical to meat from animals. Others are attempting to lab-produce fish fillets and turkey.

There are environmental benefits in moving from livestock to lab-produced meat. Land required for production would be reduced by 99%, and water required by 90%. The greenhouse gases produced by livestock would be reduced. There would be no need for antibiotics for meat produced in sterile environments.

Still squeamish about eating lab-produced meat? No problem. Other delicacies already being consumed around the world are available to replace meat. Marcel Dicke, an entomologist, gave a TED Talk in which he claimed “delicacies like locusts and caterpillars compete with meat in flavor, nutrition and eco-friendliness.” He cites the figure that 80% of the world already eats insects. In fact, he notes that insects have been used in various food preparations in Western diets for years.

Oh, and by the way, when insects and lab-produced meat replace cattle and other animals, there won’t be an abundance of hides for leather for our clothes and handbags? Got that covered too. A September 2017 article in The Atlantic describes how a factory belonging to a company called Modern Meadows makes leather at least as good as that from animals.

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