Imagine America without steaks grilling on the Fourth of July or turkeys baking in the oven on Thanksgiving. Meat consumption is so ingrained in our society that there’s no wonder it is a $750 billion industry annually.
Despite the economic benefit, the meat industry has disastrous tolls on our environment. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the livestock industry is the primary emitter of methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than CO2. It also uses 26 percent of the world’s land for grazing and causes 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest region. Meat production is unsustainable and will not be able to meet future meat demands if it continues with current techniques.
That’s why we need cellular agriculture to fulfill our meat demands while reducing its impacts on the environment. If you are a meat eater, consider lab-grown meat as an alternative to your protein needs.
With advancing technology, meat can be made in a lab using recombinant DNA. New Harvest, a nonprofit organization urging breakthroughs in cellular agriculture, describes this process as taking a microbe such as yeast and inserting the genetic blueprint for a protein into the microbe’s genetic makeup. Since all cells read the same genetic code, the microbe makes the protein the same as if it came from the cow cell. As more microbes produce more protein, you get tissues of meat that are identical to that actually grown on the animal.
The result of this meat is that it requires much less time and resources than growing the entire animal itself. It is a revolutionarily clean way of getting meat that is healthier for humans, better for the environment and requires no animal slaughter.
However, of course, the technology is new. The process is expensive, and it takes a long time for scientists to produce the meat. But as with computers and cell phones, technology becomes more efficient as it progresses, and there will come a day when we see lab-grown meat line our grocery store shelves.
It will be a fruitless effort to save the environment and revolutionize our meat-production if people aren’t on board. Once the newness dies down, the benefits won’t be so hard to swallow.
Start-up companies such as Hampton Creek and Memphis Meats hope to be the first ones to bring lab-grown meat to store shelves in 2018 and 2021, respectively.
The way we understand meat consumption and production as we know it is changing rapidly, and we as consumers will need to adjust our mindsets in order for major environmental change to occur. It is because of us our purchasing power that the current unsustainable meat industry thrives, and it will be up to us to change it.
We desperately need to uphold the benefits of lab-grown meat despite its formidable novelty, for we will be the generation that makes or breaks the industry. It will be a fruitless effort to save the environment and revolutionize our meat-production if people aren’t on board. Once the newness dies down, the benefits won’t be so hard to swallow.