Exploring Lab-Grown Meat

Exploring Lab-Grown Lamb, Cultured Chicken, and Biotechnology Beef

Lab Grown Meat.png

From “clean meat”, “safe meat”, and “green meat” to “in-vitro meat”, “lab meat”, and even “Frankenstein meat”, cultured meat has been labelled as both a panacea for global issues and an abomination. But what exactly is cultured meat? Why would we want to make it? What are its drawbacks? And how can it be marketed to consumers?

These are the questions that Dr. William R Aimutis of North Carolina State University sought to answer in his talk “Lab Grown Meat: The Future of Food?” given on Thursday, October 25 as part of Sustainability Awareness Week. Although it is indeed a complex issue, there are several points that Dr. Aimutis helped to clear up:

  • Cultured meat is made of animal muscle cells that have been grown from small tissue samples in a suitable growth medium with the use of cell scaffolds
  • The long-term goal is to produce cultured meat that looks, smells, and tastes exactly like meat produced in the traditional manner
  • While cell culturing is not a new science, much of our meat-culture technology has come from more recent biomedical stem cell research
  • Cultured meat may be necessary to meet the sharply-increasing global demand for protein and minimise the mounting environmental pressures of traditional meat production

Advantages of cultured meat:

  • Extensive water, land, and energy conservation
  • Reduced methane emissions
  • Resolution of animal rights issues associated with traditional meat production
  • Improved food safety
  • Healthier protein

Challenges of cultured meat:

  • Transitioning from expensive small-scale production to affordable, large-scale industrial production
  • The technical challenges of culturing cells in 3 dimensions (including the expense of the growth medium and lack of suitable cell scaffolds)
  • Lack of government funding
  • Debate over how it should be regulated
  • Potential negative economic impacts on current agriculture and animal industries
  • Product appearance and texture – currently, only muscle tissue can be produced, but much of the familiar flavour and texture of meat comes from its fat, blood, and connective tissue
  • Negative public perception – many view cultured meat as unnatural

Conclusions:

  • Public perception of cultured meat products is crucial to the industry’s future and can be influenced through education, and even the terms used to describe it
  • Regardless of the future of cultured meat, feeding our growing population will depend on consumers accepting alternative protein sources, including plant, insect, algae, and even fermented mushroom protein

So, when will consumers be seeing lab-grown lamb hit grocery stores shelves? Dr. Aimutis isn’t exactly sure, but says that from a technology perspective, it would be feasible to see small amounts available within the next 10 years. But fear not, ranchers; as Dr. Aimutis adds, the challenges of scaling up production mean that it will be many years before it can replace a significant portion of traditional meat market.


06/11/18
Meghan Lim
Bike Library Volunteer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s