• Glenn

Cultured Meat Gaining Steam

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

With demand for meat forecast to rise dramatically in coming decades, investment in cultured meat is gaining steam, including from some unexpected corners. Tyson foods is the United States' largest meat producer. As a result, it is the cause of untold suffering to millions of animals. Tyson has been at the centre of many animal welfare controversies. With close ties to politicians, it has also been a major proponent of so-called "Ag-Gag" laws; consumers aren't allowed to know how their steak/chicken etc. has been raised and slaughtered, and the unconscionable abuses that have occurred (for example, Washington Post, 2016. Discretion strongly advised). It has been enough for PETA to campaign for a widespread boycott of the company, which supplies such outlets as KFC.

It is good to know, then, that even among corporations such as these, there is notable strategic and fiscal pressure towards exploring opportunities in lab-grown meat. Thomson Reuters reports that Tyson is investing in an Israeli biotech firm producing commercially-viable meat in the laboratory (Reuters, 2018). If animals are going to be treated essentially as crops (with accordingly limited rights) it makes sense to "go all the way" as it were. Furthermore, according to Reuters, meat consumption is set to double in the decades to 2050, not just from population growth but global changes in preferences. It's possible that demand can only be met using such techniques.

It is startling how little animal welfare factors into these strategic and investment decisions. Nevertheless, we find a potential win-win here for consumer, corporation and animal life. According to the report:

University and the University of Amsterdam estimated that cultured meat would produce 96 percent less greenhouse gas, consume 82 to 96 percent less water and virtually eliminate land requirements needed to raise livestock.

There may be no stopping the march of the market in this case. Science Daily reported the following as far back as 2011:

The workshop in Sweden engaged an interdisciplinary group of 25 scientists who all have special interest in cultured meat. Some of them have specialties in tissue engineering, stem cells and food technology. Others are environmental scientists, ethicists, social scientists and economists. All of these areas have been discussed during the workshop. The result is encouraging regarding the possibility to actually be able to supply consumers with cultivated meat in the future, and the scientists have not found any crucial arguments against cultured meat. [emphasis ours]

In the meantime, however, ignorance is not bliss. Consumers cannot divorce themselves from the actions done in their name to bring food to the table. Choose thoughtfully; choose wisely.

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Reuters, 2018 (Rabinovitch, A.), "Tyson Foods backs Israeli startup to grow meat in the lab", [online], last accessed 03.07.18, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tyson-foods-israel/tyson-foods-backs-israeli-startup-to-grow-meat-in-the-lab-idUSKBN1I31DP

Science Daily, 2018, "The environmental benefits of lab-brown meat are pronounced indeed.", [online], last accessed: 03.07.18. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110906085145.htm