When we thought scientists were taking a low spiral on inventions, they pull yet another big surprise on us. Who could have imagined or envisioned a point where we would produce meat from anything other than animals? Well, they have caught us flat-footed on a potentially good idea. This major invention of the food industry is lab-grown meat.
Lab-grown meat, also referred to as cultured or clean meat, is meat grown from cell stems in a cell culture. Lab-grown meat is thought to solve issues like overfishing, animal welfare concerns, and gas emissions.
The quest for lab growth has been a long technological journey which is on the brink of paying off. It started with NASA and a goldfish protein in the 2000s. This was followed by a frog grown from stem cells for an art exhibition in 2003. The grown meat has been on a steady rise with a $330,000 cultured burger unveiled in 2013 by Mark Post. Some of the big companies getting into large-scale production are Memphis Meat, which produced lab-grown poultry and meatballs in 2016 and 2017, and Hampton Creek which is set to hold a product reveal dinner in early 2018. Memphis meat has also received funding from known investors like Bill Gates and Richard Branson. This shows that there is a legitimate future and demand for lab-grown meat.
It is worth noting though that many companies are yet to put their products or the ingredients used in the public domain. Don’t hold your breath though. They will follow in the footsteps of Coca-Cola Company and KFC, who keep their ingredients out of reach from consumers and competitors.
Challenges of Lab-Grown Meat
Lab-grown meat is still in the development stage. There are several hurdles that are yet to pass for it to be a fully fledged consumer product. Some of the major concerns are the impact on the environment and the source of raw materials to use in production. Many assure that it will help reduce the environmental woes caused by the current agricultural setup. This is because, unlike animals which cause emissions, the stem cells use nutrients from plants to grow, hence they’re healthy for the environment.
The opponents of lab-grown meat though feel that even if stem cells do not release emissions to the environment, meat production still consumes a lot of energy, which will still have effects on the environment. So, for now, the debate on the environment remains inconclusive.
Another challenge is the cost of production. Currently, it is expensive to produce a single unit of clean meat. This is to be dealt with by large-scale production which will cut the cost down significantly.
Consumers’ Attitude Towards Lab-grown Meat
The move to have lab-grown meat has been welcomed by some consumers. Animal rights groups are supporting the course for they feel it is a cruelty-free process as compared to slaughtering animals.
Most food consumers in the world today prefer meat to plants. While plants are more readily available than meat, it means that most people are left hungry. Therefore having lab-grown meat would be a big step towards fighting hunger in the world today.
The production of lab-grown meat is still several steps away from becoming the big hit that many are expecting. Producing companies have to work on essential production and distribution concerns. Only with those solved can lab-grown meant eventually become an alternative consumer good to replace actual meat.
Until then, the question for all of us is: what are your thoughts on lab-grown meat? Will you eat it when it becomes available on the market?
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