Two California-based companies have been granted approval in the United States for the production of lab-grown meat, specifically cell-cultivated chicken, marking a significant development in sustainable food production.
For as long as we can look back in history, people have been eating meat. The number of meat eaters has risen sharply with the new culture and society, along with increased incomes.
When it comes to eating meat, we take it for granted and just think it comes from animals, but wait, science has progressed so much that we can grow meat in a laboratory entirely out of an animal’s body. This is known as lab-grown meat/cell-cultured meat, which is being hailed as the answer to our problems of warming and climate change caused by commercial animal rearing.
How is Lab-Grown Meat Made?
Compared to terms like free range and farm-raised, lab-grown leaves a lot to the imagination when it comes to how cultured meat is made, but it’s not as scary as it sounds.
Scientists use an animal’s stem cells, the building blocks of muscle and other organs, to begin the process of creating cultured meat. The cells are placed in petri dishes with amino acids and carbohydrates to help the muscle cells multiply and grow.
Bioreactors are specialized containers that provide cells with the necessary resources, such as nutrients and a suitable environment, to replicate and grow into edible meat.
Once enough muscle fibers have grown, the result is meat that resembles ground meat.
In 2020, Singapore became the first country to approve the sale of alternative meat.
Advantages of Cell-Cultured Meat Production
- This will help tackle climate change through a reduction in greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions associated with rearing livestock, which contributes about 15% to GHG emissions.
- Lab-grown meat will need much less space, which will improve land use compared to traditional methods.
- Additionally, this will minimize animal slaughter and can be tailored to meet specific requirements and help address challenges of food security and nutrition.
Challenges Associated with Lab-Grown Meat
- Achieving taste, texture, appearance, and cost parity with conventional meat is still a challenge for cell-cultivated alternatives. The perception of cultured meat as “artificial” or “unnatural” may affect consumers’ willingness to adopt these products.
- Scaling up production while maintaining quality and consistency is challenging due to limitations in current production methods. Developing efficient bioreactor systems and finding suitable cell culture media are critical for achieving scalability.
- Cell-cultivated meat is expensive due to the resource-intensive and complex process involved in its production. The additional costs of scalability and quality control processes also contribute to its high cost.
The pace at which the scientific community is making advances is really commendable. Production of Lab-grown meat will help reduce GHG emissions, address food security and nutritional challenges, increase land use efficiency and bring down animal slaughter, which will help our society become more humane, technologically advanced and efficient at taking care of other life forms and our planet.
However, there is a need to invest in R&D to improve production, reduce costs and build consumer awareness in order for it to gain wider acceptance.