Lab-grown meat. It sounds unnatural and like something from a sci-fi novel. But it may very well be the driving force to end meat consumption as our developing world currently struggles to produce and distribute meat, poultry, fish, and more.
The pandemic disrupted meat production at US meat packaging plants and caused worldwide panic about a potential meat shortage. This gave way for plant-based products such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods to step up to the plate as viable alternatives. Yet, it has not replaced the consumer’s desire for meat with its very prominent texture and taste. This has led to the development of many “lab-grown” meat start-ups within a scientific base without taking up the footprint of a large pasture.
To develop this lab-grown meat, scientists must isolate stem cells from animals, allowing them to multiply in a lab under monitored conditions to regenerate fat, muscle, and tissues. One of the biggest challenges is replicating our conventional meat’s nutritional characteristics, taste, and texture. Companies estimate, on average, about three weeks of cultivation to produce the same amount of meat you would get from a cow that had to live for 18 months.
Just as all meat, the FDA will have a significant role in the regulation of lab-grown meat. On the one hand, these companies will not have to maintain such rigorous regulations such as slaughter and bacterial inspections. Instead, a federally recognized and approved lab will produce all the products.
This still may not be enough incentive and security in the consumer’s mindset to step fully into mass production and marketing of lab-grown meat products. It is, however, a step towards the production of something that could potentially help us reduce land waste and methane levels. “Lab-grown meat and stem cell regeneration” may not sound appetizing, but is it the next proactive solution to aid in preserving our land? Will you try a lab-grown burger at your next BBQ?