We were introduced to the world’s first lab grown beef burger in 2013. But since then, extreme progress has been made in improving the process and cutting the costs of producing these stem cell burgers meaning that mass production may soon become a viable option, since the first lab grown burger had a price tag of $325k, price per lb is now $5k, and this will continue to fall.
However, the “meat without murder” hook only touches on a small proportion of what this new fantastical meat production can mean for the environmental impact. An independent study found that lab-grown beef uses 45% less energy than the average global representative figure for farming cattle. It also produces 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires 99% less land.
The sustainability of what could turn a hugely inefficient and resource heavy industry is a factor that is hard to put figures to. But as deforestation continues to make room for cattle, drought from deforestation continues, greenhouse gas emmissions from livestock and transportation continue, we take a bizarre cognitive dissonance as to how bad for the environment eating meat can actually be.
With a focus on localisation of these ‘factories’, powered by renewable energy and the food miles reduced, the industry can become environmentally friendly over-night.
Whilst the current narrative focusses on the ethical benefit of being able to stop slaughtering animals, (40 billion animals a year according to Vegetarian Times) other industries will invariably lose out as in reality, very little of the animal is wasted. With contributions to other market sectors such as clothing, cosmetics, fuel and others are still going to be reliant on the real thing, demand for livestock is not likely to drop by much too soon.
So whilst everyone is talking about how we won’t need to slaughter what are sentient and cognitively agile creatures, we should also consider how eating “lab grown” meat is probably going to be one of the most environmentally friendly breakthroughs we have ever had.
So as China plan to mass produce animals for consumption by cloning, lab grown meat will be a welcome addition to the local supermarket.