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01
Mai

The Age of Lab Food

 

Image Credit: Julia Koblitz

Burgers are a guilty pleasure of many people. There are so many different kinds, from meat to vegan. What’s new in 2022? Stem-cell burgers have now been introduced into the market. The most pressing question we have is… Is it a good thing? It is a controversial topic where many pros and cons have to be weighed. As someone who values and appreciates the role of animals in our society, I wonder if this new change is considered ethical and can change the way we harvest meat and dairy products. 

What is Lab-Grown Food?

Now, let’s talk about what is in this mystery meat. Lab-based meat, also known as clean meat, artificial meat or cell-based meat is exactly that, grown from the cells of animals in a lab. Currently, dairy and meat substitutes are the only two types of lab-grown food being mass produced. Because it is made of the harvested cells of animals or fermentation of microorganisms, it is considered to be cellular agriculture. Lab-grown meat is considered real meat. It is harvested and grown from real animal tissue and is replicated to form meat identical in both nutritional value and appearance to traditional meat. It is not “processed” or “fake”, lab-grown meat and traditional meat only differ in the way they are produced. Unlike traditional meat, cultured meat is unlikely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria because it does not consist of any digestive organs. Lab-grown meat also has the capacity to be developed into containing more vitamins, proteins, etc. to become healthier than regular meat. 

Will it Put an End to Animal Cruelty?

In our world, there have been more than 70 billion animals killed for food. On top of that, factories that farm and slaughter animals for their meat are known for their horrible treatment of animals, this often includes brutal living conditions and cruel deaths. Cell-based meat however uses stem cells harvested from the animal, by a minimally invasive procedure, to have the same result of meat. A single stem cell sample has the replication abilities to become more than 80,000 hamburgers. 

Are there any Downsides?

Lab-grown meat being marketed as cruelty-free can be slightly deceiving because like most products, there are a couple downsides to be mindful of. Most are aware that traditional animal agriculture makes up nearly 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, researchers suspect that lab-grown meat may worsen already climbing numbers and create more problems than it solves. Lab-grown meat may produce CO2 in high concentrations because the process of making it is associated with high levels of energy use. In addition to this, the substance needed to create the in vitro stem cells from the animal biopsies requires a fetal serum, this process raises many ethical worries. Due to the many factors surrounding lab-grown meat, it is quite expensive. As it becomes more widely available, it will start off more pricey than traditional meat and for many, it is not sustainable. 

Final Thoughts

The whole idea of engineering food is mind boggling. It is still being researched and is slowly being introduced into the market. The most convincing factor of it all is that no animals are harmed in the making of cultured meat. However, it being entirely cruelty free is misleading. It is not very sustainable because of its negative impact on the environment. I always like to think that there are two sides to every coin, we must decide for ourselves if one side outweighs another. 

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Resources:

https://earth911.com/business-policy/is-lab-grown-meat-sustainable/ 

https://labgrownmeat.com/gmo-lab-grown-meat/#:~:text=Lab%2Dgrown%20meat%20is%20often,extracted%20from%20animals%20through%20biopsy.   

 

Written By : Maaya Chander

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