A ham burger with a rim of lettuce sitting on a black plate against a black background with a black and red napkin on a black and white-dotted tablecloth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is not about cloning cows or anything that might be contemplated on the Island of Dr. Moreau. That, besides being really creepy, would defeat much of the purpose of the venture.
This is not science for the sake of science.
Many believe that cultured meat may not only help solve a future food crisis, it may also help combat climate change. Post believes this research represents a crucial first step in finding a sustainable alternative to meat production that’s more ethical and environmentally friendly.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the demand for meat will increase by more than two-thirds by 2050. In the short-term, evidence suggests meat will become an ever-increasingly expensive “luxury” food over the next two decades.
But the long-term issues are far more alarming.
According to the researchers, current meat production methods are inefficient due to the amount of land required for the production of grain for feed. Animals transform only 15 percent of vegetable proteins into edible animal proteins. Cultured beef production could prove more efficient as it can be conducted in a controlled environment.
A life cycle analysis by Hannah Tuomisto of the University of Oxford confirms large reductions in the usage of land, energy and water in the production of Cultured Beef, compared to obtaining beef through livestock.
“Feeding the world is a complex problem. I think people don’t yet realize what an impact meat consumption has on the planet,” says Ken Cook, Co-Founder, Environmental Working Group. “Eighteen percent of greenhouse gases come from meat production, more than all global transport combined. We just can’t keep doing what we’re doing. Unless we make some changes on how we produce meat on this planet, we’re in for a terrible reckoning.”
Livestock (before slaughter) release an enormous amount of methane, twenty times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. If global meat demand does increase by 73 percent by 2050, where is that extra supply going to come from when we already use 70 percent of existing farmland for livestock?
Well, if the Maastricht University estimates are correct, cells from one single cow could eventually produce 175 million quarter-pounders. In contrast, traditional farming methods would need 440,000 cows to accomplish that feat. And they would have to slaughter every one of those animals to do it. With cultured meat, the host animal is not killed.
So who is behind this project you ask? None other than Sergey Brin, Co-Founder of Google.