A little while ago, I blogged about the Food Printer, a revolution in the food industry that could change the way we think about food. With millions of people around the world struggling just to eat, it seems pretty important to access all our food options and discover new ways of feeding people. Today, I bring to you another revolution in the food industry in the form of Synthetic Meat.
Synthetic Meat is meat that never had a pulse. Also known as ‘in vitro meat’, this meat is grown in a lab. The process first involves a precursor, such as stem cells, which initiate the growth of animal muscle cells. These precursors are placed on a scaffold in a liquid medium. Eventually, muscle cells begin to grow and divide, spreading themselves out as a sheet of meat. Delicious!
One of the main driving force for the design of synthetic meat is simple: supply and demand. With populations around the world soaring, there is a growing demand for meat. And as more nations progress from developing to developed, the demand is even greater. Earth has only so much land to grow crops to feed livestock and for those livestock to graze, so synthetic meat was created from a purely logistical standpoint.
But there are other benefits. Current meat production contributes 15-24% of the world’s greenhouse gases. And unlike what you might hear, this is mainly due to deforestation and not to the flatulence of cows. Growing livestock isn’t exactly an energy efficient process. For every 1 kg of poultry, pork or beef, 2kg, 4kg and 7kg of grain is required, respectively. So you can imagine just how much land needs to be cleared just to grow enough livestock feed. By making meat in a lab, you save a lot of water and a lot of natural resources. (You can read more about meat’s environmental contribution here)
There’s also the standpoint of animal activists. For quite some time, PETA has been ofering a $1million reward to a person or group that can make synthetic meat a reality. This would certainly leverage animal lovers in the vegetarian debate, where you no longer have to slaughter animals to satisfy your carnivorous cravings.
The technology to produce synthetic meat isn’t perfect though. Currently, there are some difficulties in guaranteeing the appropriate nutritional content, along with synthesising meat on a commercial scale. Nevertheless, researchers anticipate that within 6months, the first sausages will be synthesized and in a year, the first burger patties.
But will anybody buy these synthetic snags or products called ‘I can’t believe it’s not bacon’? Well that’s up to consumers. Some people think consumers just won’t go for synthetic meat. Their reasoning is that consumers just won’t like the idea of something so mechanical and lifeless (sort of like the vampires in True Blood not really wanting the synthetic, bottled blood). But the following video, which shows how commercial sausages are made, is just one reason why I think consumers will acclimatise to the change. It’s up to you to decide just how much ‘real meat’ is in these snags and just how healthy they really are.
So there you have it, synthetic meat. Of course, while synthetic meat aims to solve many global problems like overuse of natural resources, one can’t help but think that eating less meat would also do the trick. After all, overconsumption of meat has been linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease so it seems in everyone’s best interest to pick up a stick of celery every now and then. Please write comments and let us know what you think of synthetic meat and if you would eat a synthetic snag.