Lab-engineered meat has been approved by the USDA.
For anyone who chooses to eat meat, there is a side of that choice that isn’t often discussed openly – the need to kill animals to get the meat that is going to be consumed. In the modern world, the slaughter happens out of sight of the end consumer in most cases, so it isn’t considered much when dinner is being prepared. And, of course, for many people, the need to kill animals to eat isn’t a choice they are willing to make, so they may adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet. But what if it was possible to eat meat in a more humane way, without any animals being killed? That sounds far-fetched, to be sure, but it is now a reality. Recent regulatory approval has made it possible for companies in this space to sell their products in the U.S. This is a rather novel approach to improving upon the humane treatment of animals despite dietary preference.
Even for those who aren’t ethically opposed to the consumption of traditional animal meat, there are some major concerns about how food is raised in the modern world. Large-scale, industrial animal food production causes harm to the environment, uses huge volumes of valuable resources, and raises concerns about the spreading of diseases.
So, the potential of creating meat for mass consumption that skips the step of actually having to grow an animal has potential benefits for everyone. This new technology can use real animal cells as a starting point to develop meat that tastes like the real thing in a more humane way, while avoiding the drawbacks mentioned above. Those who have tried this type of cultivated meat largely report that it tastes good and is extremely similar to what they are used to eating.
While the potential for this process is exciting, and it certainly could go a long way toward changing how food is grown around the world, there are always concerns with new technologies. Progress can come slowly, and sometimes the outcomes in the long run are not what was expected at the start.
For one thing, the capacity to create cultivated meat is presently very low. Companies in this space don’t have the capability at this point to produce enough lab-grown meat to stock grocery store shelves. Of course, if this method proves viable for the market, that capacity will rapidly grow as more money is invested.
Another point of concern is how much energy will be required for the cultivation process on a large scale. We know that growing animals industrially for consumption is not great for the planet, but it’s possible that lab-grown meat will also be harmful to the environment in other ways.
It’s fascinating to think of the idea of eating a burger or a piece of chicken that is real animal meat without any animal ever having been born to grow that protein. Whether or not lab-grown meat becomes a mainstay on dinner plates or remains a niche market is yet to be seen. If this market does find a large base of willing consumers, it has the potential to make a notable impact on the world.