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Is synthetic meat the answer?

Photo By: culturedbeef.org


Sydney Shadeck, Opinion Editor

Any remotely environmentally aware individual will easily be able to tell you of the list of dangers surrounding large-scale meat production. The amount of water used to create a single serving of beef is equal to the amount of water used for a controversial but undeniably large number of servings of plant products. The volume of food needed to sustain the animals, if fed directly to the people eating the animals, could sustain the humans for much longer than the meat that comes from the animal is able to. Greenhouse gas emissions, both from production and post-production processes as well as those emitted from the animals themselves, are a huge contributor to air pollution and climate change. The amount of land needed to ethically raise a single animal is incredibly inefficient, and if less than that amount of land is used, questions of cruelty are pressing.

With a global population continuously growing, how will our Earth be able to keep allowing us to consume meat at the outrageous rate that we currently do? Maybe, just maybe, it won’t.

In response to this threat of global environmental catastrophe (or worse, forced vegetarianism), scientists have long been devising alternatives to meats. The latest talk of success comes from synthetic, or cultured, meat products.

By cultivating carefully chosen animal cells in a growth serum, labs are able to create man-made but not technically artificial animal muscles, hypothetically ready for human consumption. This technology has been in the works for a few decades but only recently has seen any hope of providing large-scale solutions of any kind.

Environmentally, the impacts of the synthetic meat are far more sustainable than traditional meat. Greenhouse gas emissions were reported to be less than ten percent that of livestock production, water use dramatically lower, and only one percent of the land was needed for traditional farming was necessary for synthetic meat production according to The Daily Express. In addition to this, concerns of animal welfare were less of an issue considering live animals were neither raised in the infamously deplorable conditions associated with livestock farms nor killed to put the meat on the table.

The first entire burger patty, completed in 2013, filled health requirements and passed taste-tests with flying colors but put a dent in the pockets of anyone considering buying one; a dent equivalent to $300,000. The cost of synthetic meats on the market would obviously need to be a fraction of that in order to sell at all. As the patty that cost as much a house was only the first prototype of its kind, scientists are hopeful that more advances will help to lower this cost and make it available to the general public in the near future. Other concerns are centered around the way the public will react to a lab-grown meat. The sensitivity to modified or at all unnatural foods make scientists question whether pursuing production, following success on the scientific and economic aspects first, if the product would ever take off or if cultured meat would always be received as an oddity.

Could this be a potential piece of the solution to the environmental havoc we are wreaking on our planet? Could this be a way to feed the billions of mouths appearing on that planet within the next few decades? Could this become the cookout norm within our lifetimes? However, the people may receive the idea synthetic meat, the option is now on the horizon and providing hope to a wide range of communities.