Updated: Mar 15
As veganism has become more popular a lot of people have started talking lab grown meat. Their argument is that no animals are harmed, that there's no need for farms that pollute the air, soil and water and that the meat can even be made really lean so that it is "healthier". But, is any of this true and is it even possible to produce meat this way?
What Is Lab Grown Meat?
The more technical term for lab grown mean is cultured meat and it is meat that is grown within a laboratory by taking cells from the animal that you want the flesh of and then getting those cells to reproduce, multiply and grow into something big enough to be used for food. The idea was first developed around 20 years ago, but it wasn't until 2013 that a university professor was able to grow enough cells that could be used to make a burger and he believes that lab-grown meat could be in the shops by 2021. In 2018 a tiny steak was produced, but even the creators of the steak said that it needed perfecting, and, small as it was, it cost £50.
Is It Healthier Than Regular Meat?
Because cultured meat is just muscle cells and muscle is made of protein, it seems that this meat will be almost 100% protein, fat and other things can be added to it to make it more like regular meat, extra vitamins could be added and, apparently, it can be programmed to produce other nutrients such as omega fatty acids. This could make it healthier as there would be no saturated fat and no cholesterol which is bad for your heart.
There would also be a massive decrease in the amount of antibiotics used as, because farms are dirty and animals are living so closely together causing germs spread very quickly and antibiotics are used to control this. This is bad for the people eating the meat as the antibiotics get passed on. As well as this, the germs that aren't killed by the antibiotics are passed on too. Cooking, even at high temperatures doesn't always kills these germs and they make people very ill through food poisoning which can't be treated because the antibiotics couldn't kill the germs in the animals and can't kill them in people either.
A negative is that meat isn't good for you. Certain nutrients, proteins etc., can be found in meat but this isn't best for our health and meat is really hard for our guts to digest, which can cause constipation and inflammation; the negative aspects of eating meat don't go away just because the meat was grown in a laboratory.
What About The Environmental Impact?
Cultured meat is definitely better for the environment than farming, it uses less water, creates less pollution in the air, soil and water. It is better for the animals too, once the cells have been taken they can be made to live forever, the cells are programmed to not die, so there is no need to go back to the animals and take more cells to grow more meat. They are spared the pain and suffering that is the life, and death, of a farm animal. There is also the return of farmland to wilderness as the laboratories/factories that would grow this meat would take up less space and could even be built in cities. The farm land would be allowed to go wild which is great for wild animals and the environment.
Will People Eat It?
Cultured meat isn't available in the shops or in restaurants so at the moment there isn't any choice about buying or eating this "food", but what has been created so far has taken a long time and has been very expensive. £50 for a miniature steak isn't going to become popular. Once the method of producing this meat has been perfected and scientists are creating something that people will want to eat it will become cheaper as it becomes more accepted. First it will be sold in expensive restaurants before, eventually, it becomes cheap enough to be found in supermarkets or, maybe, specialist sellers on the internet.
Different names that have been used for cultured meat include slaughter-free meat, in vitro meat, vat-grown meat, cell-based meat, clean meat, and synthetic meat. In newspapers and on the internet clean meat is often used as it sounds nicer than the other names and may help to get people to buy it. The idea of eating something that was created by scientists and grown in a laboratory sounds like something out of a sci-fi film, or a horror film depending on your perspective. This sounds quite opposite to what most people's idea of food is; food, when talking about plants, is meant to be something that grows in the ground and then is picked and eaten or picked, cooked and eaten. Animals are raised, killed, cooked and eaten. This is what we are taught in school, if we grow our own food in our gardens it's what we actually do. We don't have a put on a labcoat and gloves to produce food, there is nothing natural about it and this would put a lot of people off of trying it, would you eat "vat-grown" meat?
Another major factor is the taste. The meat that has been grown was 100% muscle, there is no fat or another other body cells in it, this affects the taste and texture of it. To get around this fat and other body cells are added to it to make it more like the meat that people currently eat, but will it taste like the foods that people are used to? Will they like it?
I struggle with the idea of calling this stuff, lab-grown meat, cultured meat, clean meat, whatever you want to call it, food. The definition of food is: "any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink or that plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth", so, I suppose, this "meat" would be called food, there are calories and some nutrients in this substance, what that actually is, at this stage, no one knows. Because there aren't any products that people can buy there haven't been any tests to look at what nutrients are in the meat and how much of them there are. We don't know how much protein will be in it, will it have the same amount of iron as regular meat, also, I'm assuming that, because it is grown in a laboratory, it will not contain any vitamin B12, maybe it would be fortified like cereal with sprayed on vitamins.
None of this matters to me personally as I'm vegan, I won't be eating any meat regardless of where it has come from, we don't need it and it isn't good for us. If it could be used as a way of saving animals and making a positive change for the environment it could be a good thing, but, right now, no one really knows as so few people have tried to manufacture this meat, we have no idea what the impact would be.
What do you think? Would you eat it or do you think that being vegan is the only way? Let me know in the comments.