Are we ready for something new? Something innovative, but ethically challenging? I am! I’m talking about cultured meat. Cultured meat is a revolutionary way to provide our ever-growing population with the meat they would like to eat. The ultimate goal for now? To produce cultured meat on a large scale and to sell it in supermarkets everywhere. In this post I’ll try to tell you about this new product and its’ pros and cons.
What is it exactly?
Cultured meat is made with a new technique to grow meat in large quantities without killing animals. This new product might be the solution for our insanely high meat consumption. It is made from stem cells, which are then grown in a petri dish, to finally result in for example an entire burger. The process to make cultured meat is not easy, nor cheap, as the current matrix is still from animal origin. (The matrix is the food on which cells are grown). Therefore, a plant-based solution should be found to make the product more ethically acceptable.
Creating cultured meat has already undergone a long process. It all started with the presentation of the first cultured meat burger in 2013. A €200.000 burger was fried and presented to three chosen people. According to them is was good, but it lacked a bit of flavour. Afterwards, the subject seemed to have disappeared, but not behind the scenes. Globally researchers and professors started to make cultured meat on their own. It resulted in multiple companies creating their own products. Though none of them can be found in the supermarket yet, it won’t take long anymore before we hear something new coming up.
What is the current progress?
To produce cultured meat, calf serum or stem cells from a living animal are normally used. Unfortunately, these cells can only be reproduced an x amount of times. The brand Meatable is different in this, as they can grow an unlimited number of cells from just one cell. This cell needs to come from blood from the umbilical cord and can then be grown infinitely. A truly revolutionary way of producing large quantities of meat. In October 2018, the entrepreneurs Krijn de Nood and Daan Luining said that they would like to bring cultured meat hamburgers to the supermarkets within 7 years. At first as a premium burger, because of the slightly higher costs, but hopefully soon after that as a worthy, approachable replacement for meat. It only remains a question if other companies will be quicker with bringing out their products to the public.
What are the pros and cons?
As comes with all new ideas, cultured meat does not only have pros, but also some cons. Naturally, it is evident that no animals are killed for this process. For all animal lovers, and for the sake of the earth, this is good news. With a decreasing need for livestock, we will also help the environment. Fewer animals need less water and less surface area and subsequently there will be less carbon dioxide emission. Surface area can of course then be used for harvesting plants.
The downsides of the process are the current costs to produce cultured meat. The matrix at which cells are currently grown is very expensive, and the plant-based matrix which is aimed for is even more costly. Another quest which is hard to answer right now, is if the public is ready for cultured meat. Theoretically, producing cultured meat is one of the best ways to provide the current meat-eater within our population with their meat. However, adjusting to new things can sometimes be hard. Stem cells still come from live animals, so current vegetarians or veganists might never agree with the entire production of cultured meat. It is therefore for everyone a personal question whether they think cultured meat is ethically acceptable. On which side are you?
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Article written by Manon Verijdt