Recent research on cultured meat has highlighted the technology’s environmental advantages over conventionally raised meat. It could also prove to be a game changer for billions of animals that are raised annually for food.
We can eat our way to disaster
The world’s diet has a huge impact on our health. There are many issues to consider when choosing the most sustainable food options, whether we’re talking food miles, food wastage, or animal welfare.
The topic of sustainability has become a central focus in discussions about food. This is due in part to the heavy demand from livestock industries for water, energy, land, and crops. Businesses and governments are joining civil society to acknowledge that we cannot have a sustainable future if we don’t address the current unsustainable diets in the world.
In the lead up to the COP26 climate summit, the UN Sustainable Food Summit in May will highlight this issue.
There are solutions and they are rapidly developing.
There are many solutions to the problem of unsustainable meat production. There are many plant-based alternatives to meat. We’ve seen high-profile brand tie ups between Beyond Meat, PepsiCo, and McDonald’s in the past few months. This will increase awareness and interest in plant-based protein.
It’s not healthy eating, but it’s still a good option. This is a chance to change from factory-farmed, unsustainable meats to sustainable, plant-based alternatives. Not to make everyone eat whole vegetables.
Cultured meats are on the rise
Cultured meat, also known as lab-grown meat, is another solution that has been a big hit. Cultured meat is a method that takes cells from living animals and grows them in bioreactors to make real meat. It’s a promising alternative to meat made by killing billions of animals.
Cultured meat has been the subject of many questions.
Consumers will be able to get past the “lab-grown” factor, which is arguably less frightening than a factory farm. )?
Is it possible to compete with the price? It seems possible. And costs have fallen significantly in the past few years since the famous ‘PS250,000 test tube burger’ was famously prepared in front of a group hungry and curious journalists.
Will the energy-hungry bioreactors make it less eco-friendly to produce cultured meat than was once thought?
The Good Food Institute and GAIA, in collaboration with consultancy CE Delft, tackled this final question in a study that was released last week. This paper examines the environmental impact of cultured meat relative to conventional meat and covers a wide range of issues, including global warming, land use, and water consumption.
As expected, plant-based meat options are the environment winners, according to the study. Cultured meat follows – provided it is produced using green energy such as solar, wind, and tidal.
The next steps are chicken, pork, and cultured meat if they were produced from polluting fossil fuel based energy sources such as oil, gas, and coal.
Dairy and beef cattle are the last animals that have the greatest environmental impact.
The livestock industry wants to preserve the status quo
These results might lead some to believe that chicken and pork have less environmental impact than cultured meat. This could create a demand for these animals. They are factory-farmed in their billions, and suffer the most horrific cruelty of all farm animals. The renewed demand for leaner, white meat adds to this problem.
European Livestock Voice, a European meat lobby, recently published an opinion piece that shows how Europe’s livestock industry is sustaining itself. It suggests that cultured meat could lead to a society where we are “disconnected” from nature and rurality.
We are already deeply disconnected from the natural world. This is evident by the fact we raise 60 billion farm animals each year in barren warehouses or, in extreme cases, cages.
This is not the kind of farming that past generations would recognize.
European Livestock Voice states that “if you really want to make a positive impact on the climate impact of meat protein production, then you need to invest in innovations in livestock farming.”
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Imagine a kind, sustainable future
It is exciting to see how cultured meat can outperform conventional meat in environmental terms. It’s evident that lab meat can help to reduce the suffering of billions of animals in factory farms each year by addressing environmental issues.
Combining this with low amounts of high-quality meat allows for a food system that is both sustainable and kind. This is true innovation.