Startup’s Lab-Grown Meat Is the Way of the FutureAuthor: Lauren Hawells
We hear about it every day, newspapers and TV bombarding us with stories about the world’s ever-growing population and the effect it could have on how much meat will be available in the future. Most scientists agree on one thing – we can’t go on eating meat the way we are. It’s just not sustainable. We just don’t have enough space to farm all the cows, sheep and chickens it will take to feed the world in the next hundred years.
So what are the options? You might have heard about the insect farms in Europe, their aim being to provide us with all the protein we’ll need but with the farms taking up much, much smaller areas than grazing fields. These little insects could even be ground into our breakfast cereals in the future to provide us with the protein we need.
Doesn’t sound appetizing? There could be another option – lab-grown meat. Lab-grown meat, like everything, has both pros and cons, but there are startups who believe that it’s the future.
Lab-grown meat – pros and cons
The pros of lab-grown meat are plentiful: space for farming animals wouldn’t be necessary as everything could be grown inside a lab, meat could be grown on a much bigger scale to feed the growing population and no animals would need to be killed so we could eat a beef burger. It’s also much more environmentally friendly.
It’s main con is that it is currently very expensive – and therefore just not viable until a way is found to make it cheaper to produce. In 2013, Mark Post from Maastricht University in the Netherlands made the first beef burger from cow stem cells – but it cost just under a whopping $330,000. That’s a pretty expensive burger.
If we could grow meat in much smaller spaces and at a much lower costs than our current methods of farming animals, then it could certainly be a winner. At the moment the process is still relatively new and expensive. And to grow the meat still involves animals, with a serum taken from the blood of unborn calves needed at the start of the process.
In February of this year, Memphis Meats, a startup from San Francisco, unveiled their – and the world’s – first ’animal-free’ meatball. In fact, it says that it hopes its ‘animal-free’ products will be available for us to buy in 3 to 4 years. And it’s not just beef and meatballs – they’ve made pork, too.
Memphis Meats told the Wall Street Journal that it’s looking into a way to take animals out of the process altogether and use plants instead in the future.
Is it the future?
It’s hard not to be attracted to the idea of ‘animal-free’ meat. It means we can feed more people, more meat, without the huge impact on the environment or the slaughtering of animals.
Lab-grown meat certainly does feel like the future. Is 3 to 4 years to get it on our plates optimistic? We’ll have to wait and see. But until no animal is needed to actually make the meat, we’re still farming on some scale, which is why it’s so important that Memphis Meats are researching the use of plants instead.
One thing’s for sure – we can’t go on eating meat the way we are. And startups are providing us with a great solution for this. Lab-grown meat certainly isn’t going to be leaving the headlines anytime soon.