There is little doubt that meat is nutritious and tasty, and that humanity itself evolved from hunter-gatherer groups, with superior tools for killing animals being a crucial factor that put homo sapiens ahead of other human (humanoid) species. Yet instinctively to modern humans killing is ‘bad’, and we only need to look at the horror and shock of the faces of little children when faced with the gruesomeness of killing. Animal rights movements and ethical veganism has been part of modern human societies from early days, reinforced by religious beliefs to more recent political activism. It is an ethical dilemma faced by many, yet somehow, moral considerations are difficult to generalize when it comes to the matter of food. ‘Humane’ killing is one solution proposed by some religions like Islam, but still, killing is killing.
-Joely Fisher (American Actress)
In the 1990s, it was NASA which started research into laboratory grown meat as part of its space food production program, and the search is still ongoing for artificial meat grown from turkey cells. The first fish fillet grown from goldfish cells was created in 2000. The basic concept is quite simple, meat cells being grown in tissue culture. while the cost of any new technology often tend to delay the adoption of new ideas, the commercial production of laboratory grown meat has several advantages compared to meat from farmed animals, apart from just ethical considerations.
In recent years as the prices of energy has skyrocketed, so has the cost of meat production. Mechanised farming of animals need fossil fuels, at most stages from the production to distribution, with significant amount of CO2 emissions. A recent study (1) carried out by scientists from Oxford University, UK and the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands has pointed out that “In comparison to conventionally produced European meat, cultured meat involves approximately 7–45% lower energy use (only poultry has lower energy use), 78–96% lower greenhouse gases(CO2) emissions, 99% lower land use, and 82–96% lower water use depending on the product compared.”
Till now, only the Government of the Netherlands has provided enough subsidy for research into laboratory grown meat to become commercially successful. It has been speculated that initially, only large food chains would adopt this new artificially grown meat, and perhaps keeping the source of the meat anonymous. But this need not necessarily be so – ethical eating itself might prove to be a far bigger driver of this new form of meat apart from pure energy cost considerations.
Perhaps children can be the leaders of the new change – the label on a packet of meat ” no animals were harmed killed in the production” might prove the biggest impetus and of growth of the laboratory grown meat industry, the apart from millions amongst us who for long have wrestled with the ethical dilemmas associated with killing animals for food.
With world populations estimated to reach 9 billion by the year 2050, laboratory grown artificial meat might just be one of those things that ‘compassionate’ meat eaters were looking for, as the cost of farmed meat goes higher and higher as conventional energy and land resources get more scarce.
1 Hanna L. Tuomisto and M. Joost Teixeira de Mattos. Environmental Impacts of Cultured Meat Production : Environ. Sci. Technol., 2011, 45 (14), pp 6117–6123.
Abstract at : http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es200130u
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