What is “cultivated meat?” Can it save the world?

What is “cultivated meat?” Can it save the world?


Have you ever heard of cultivated meat? It’s a new technology that is being developed as an alternative to traditional livestock farming. Cultivated meat is made by culturing cells from a living organism to create muscle tissue. This technology could have a huge impact on the way we produce food and could help us save the world. Keep reading to learn more about this amazing new technology!

by David Stone

for Assorted Ideas, Large & Small

red meat with chili pepper and green spies
Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

The Problem Cultivated Meat May Solve

The world’s population is on track to reach 10 billion by 2050. That means that demand for meat will skyrocket in the next few decades. But with 7.1 billion people alive today on Earth, cattle alone already consume enough food to feed 8.7 billion people, according to a 2009 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

If current trends continue, the livestock sector could, by 2050, account for 80 percent of all agricultural land, 30 percent of increasingly scarce freshwater consumption and be responsible for 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The negative environmental impacts are well-documented. Growing meat in labs may help solve this issue without compromising on taste, quality or tradition.

What Is It?

First, this involves real meat. It’s not the same as products like Beyond Burgers that use plant resources for imitating meat.

Cultivated meat is grown in a laboratory instead of inside animals. Lab-grown food has been used for at least ten years, but only recently has it come into the public eye. The meat is free from disease, cheap to produce and environmentally friendly.

Commercial-scale production of cultured meat promises many benefits over conventionally produced meat. It reduces animal cruelty, allows for more efficient use of land, water and energy, reduces exposure to antibiotics and growth hormones, provides better animal welfare conditions and is free from pathogens.

The way cultivated meat works is that you extract cells from an animal using biopsy darts. These neither hurt nor harm the animal. These cells are then cultivated with nutrients until you have thin layers of muscle tissue.

A nutrient-rich medium is used instead of blood since blood coagulates the cultured meat and makes it impossible to eat. These small thin layers are then stacked on top of each other until you get the desired thickness of cutlets or whatever kind of piece of meat you want.

It can be done using almost any animal of any size. It’s not an ideal way to produce meat yet because there are still kinks that need to be worked out before it becomes commercially viable. The stack of tissue layers, for example, is pressed hard together so you need to figure out a good way of keeping the tissue layers separated, but it will be available in some restaurants or supermarkets within the next decade.

An Insight Making Cultivating Meat Brilliant

One of the big reasons why this is brilliant is because all the energy that would go into actually growing an animal goes into just mass-producing these thin sheets of meat. You also don’t have to fatten up animals on farms, which means you don’t use up all that land and water that the animals would need.

You also don’t need to feed them or give them medicine, but it is still possible to do so with any lab-grown meat if you want. Without having to grow an entire large animal, there is a lot less environmental impact, like deforestation for grazing space and using up the water needed for drinking.

The biggest environmental benefit is that no animals are killed to make this meat, which means fewer greenhouse gas emissions. About 18 percent of greenhouse gases come from the livestock sector.

Unmistakeable Need

With the growing world population, it’s necessary to look at new ways to feed everyone without causing as much harm as we currently do. A single hamburger patty takes 660 gallons of water to grow. Cultivated meat would greatly reduce that 660 gallons by eliminating feeding and watering an animal altogether. Of course, cultivating meat calls for water too but vastly less.

It is possible to add fat cells from animals into the tissue stack so you get a more realistic piece of meat. If this can be done successfully in a cost-effective way, it may become popular in upscale restaurants.

Currently, lab-grown meat can cost up to 10 000 USD per pound, if you have the equipment and expertise needed to make it at all. So, this process isn’t very efficient or cheap yet.

But by 2030, if this technology has been perfected, the price should drop to very near the price of conventionally produced meat. Maybe lower.

But will it sell in Hollywood?

It is unclear whether this lab-grown meat will be a success in restaurants and supermarkets, but it would help if celebrities like Kim Kardashian or Tom Hanks were seen eating it on their social media accounts. If the industry can sell enough cultivated meat they will be able to lower the price a lot more and that will make a big difference for everyone.

If it is successful, this technology could save millions of lives every year, reduce environmental harm and help end animal cruelty since no animals would be badly treated, then killed. This is something we should look into further because it could change the world as we know it.

two cows
Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels.com

The world population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, which means we would need at least 70 percent more food than what is currently produced. We are running out of space to produce this extra food without causing undue harm to the environment and animals. This cultured meat technology could help us feed everyone without having to destroy the environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is cultured or cultivated meat?

Cultured meat, sometimes called clean meat, is a meat product produced from cells in a lab rather than from whole animals. Lab-grown meats are also known as “in vitro”, Latin for “in glass”, or “synthetic” or “artificial” meats. The cells used to make the cultured meat are taken from animals, humans or plants.

The meat is grown in a lab by culturing cells harvested from animals, which means they don’t need to be fed, kept at the right temperature or treated with antibiotics. The process of cultivating these cells happens in closed tanks that are known as bioreactors. Cells tend to behave differently outside of animals, so researchers are trying to figure out which cells work best for this process.

For now, the meat that’s being sold is mostly fat-free and colorless, since no blood has been added. It can be shaped into things like burgers, nuggets or sausages though. If cultured meat doesn’t look, smell or taste like regular meat, then it probably won’t sell. The first lab-grown hamburger, for example, cost $325 000 – too expensive for sane people.

The history of cultured meat:

In 1907 Winston Churchill wrote an article about the possibility that one day we would grow meat in factories and suggested that animal populations wouldn’t explode if we didn’t need to feed them all. He was right, but it still took around 100 years for this idea to be more than just a dream.

The first cultured meat was made in 1993 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). They grew goldfish muscle in space with some success, but when they tried to grow frog muscle it turned out rubbery. Since then there wasn’t much research on the topic until the last few years.

In 2013, Dr. Mark Post kickstarted the current wave of research into cultured meat with his ground-breaking cultured beef burger. Since then there have been several other successful experiments that included chicken nuggets, pork chops and duck.

How does it work?

The first step in making lab-grown meat is to take a sample of adult stem cells from the animal you want to grow. This can be done by taking muscle or fat cells and culturing them with nutrients and growth factors so they divide and multiply.

The next step is to let them form into small strands of muscle tissue, just half a centimeter in width and three centimeters long. The tissue is then attached to a sponge-like structure and placed in a bioreactor where it’s turned into muscle tissue.

These small strands of muscle tissue are then layered together and fused, either by hand or with electrical impulses, just like you would with normal meat that you buy from the butchers. The muscles fibers continue to grow and join together in the same way that they would inside an animal, resulting in larger pieces of muscle tissue.

Steps required to make cultivated meat:

1) Harvest cells from an animal.

2) Grow and expand these cells into small strands of muscle tissue.

3) Layer these strands together and fuse them by hand or with electrical impulses.

4) Let the muscle fibers continue to grow and join together in a similar way to how they would inside an animal, resulting in larger pieces of muscle tissue.

5) Cut these pieces into something that looks like normal meat, such as a burger or chicken nugget. Throw on some sauce and serve!

ham burger with vegetables
Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

What does cultured meat taste like?

Studies have shown that people can’t tell the difference between lab-grown and regular meat. The cells from animals are identical on a genetic level – they just grow in different conditions.

Lab-grown meat is said to feel slightly harder than normal meat because it hasn’t been tenderized with all of the blood and enzymes from the living animal. As a result, people are more likely eat it with a knife and fork.

How much does cultured meat cost?

Dr. Post’s 2013 burger cost $330,000 to make. It was made by hand and wasn’t very large at all – it weighed half a kilogram. Since then researchers have managed to get the cost down to $11.36 per burger. The main issue with scaling up the process is that it’s currently very labor-intensive, too much for any commercial kitchen to handle.

How can cultured meat help save the world?

Cultured meat requires less land and water than traditional farming. It also doesn’t produce methane, which is a greenhouse gas that’s 24 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

Cultured meat is, therefore, better for the environment and helps fight climate change, which means fewer weather-related disasters that hurt millions of people around the world every year.

If cultivated meat is adopted worldwide, it would also put an end to animal cruelty in factory farms. The animals would no longer be seen as meat-producing machines and more as the individuals they truly are.

How can cultured meat help animals?

By growing just a small amount of cells from an animal, we’re able to grow enough meat for 50 people instead of harming several animals or having them live in nightmarish conditions. This means less demand for the meat industry – and less animal cruelty.

By choosing to eat cultured meat instead of regular meat, you won’t be supporting the meat industry or its practices. You’ll be directly saving animals from being killed for their flesh.

What are the disadvantages of cultivated meat?

Not everyone wants to eat something grown in a lab. Just as some people don’t want to eat vegetables grown using pesticides and others don’t buy free-range eggs, there will always be a small group that won’t like cultured meat.

Cultured meat also has the issue of not being able to grow quickly enough to keep up with demand if adopted worldwide. Scientists need to find a way of growing it faster and in larger quantities before they can make cultured meat mainstream.

What about the taste?

As cultured meat hasn’t been adopted by the general public yet, it’s hard to tell if people will want to eat it once they know more about how it’s made. It might end up being rejected by the public, which would be an insurmountable problem for the new industry.

What can I do to help?

If you want to get cultured meat into your local supermarket or restaurant, then there are several things that you can do. You could share articles on social media about how it’s grown and promote its benefits, email companies asking them to include it in their menus, start petitions for supermarkets and restaurants to sell cultured meat, talk about it with friends and family members, or go vegan so that you don’t contribute to the demand for animal flesh.

Conclusion

Cultured meat is a way of growing food using the same technology that’s currently used in medicine. This means it could help to fight climate change and save lives while also reducing animal cruelty.

The big hurdle at the moment is making cultured meat mainstream so that people can easily get access to it. To help make this happen, you can share articles about how it’s made, contact companies directly asking for them to include cultured meat in their menus, or go vegan.

Although not everyone will want to eat this food, it still has the potential to improve our world and reduce animal deaths by a huge amount.

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