Lab-Grown Meat is off the Menu (for now)
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
The world loves to eat meat. Glorious meat. It is firmly entrenched in the culture; associated with enjoyment, health (debatable, but I digress), vigour and the recognition of special occasions of all kinds. Where celebrated, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Australia Day and so forth would not be complete without the traditional serving of meat. While some countries, such as in Europe, are finding slight decreases in consumption of certain kinds of meat (pork, for example), the worldwide trend is unequivocally up and up (Ensia, 2015). Vegetarians and vegans remain very much in the minority.
Developing countries, too, are hungering for the carnivorous lifestyle (see OECD data, 2016). This is despite well-founded concerns when it comes to raising animals for meat production relating to environmental impacts, animal welfare, ethics and pubic health ramifications. One innovation that could address many of these concerns is lab-grown meat. Interestingly, highly regarded research firm YouGov has found that there is significant resistance to consuming this kind of meat (YouGov, 2017). Without sufficient consumer demand, this industry well never get off the ground.
Here are the main research findings:
63% are concerned about unknown side-effects
52% are put off by the fact that it is "not natural"
48% believed jobs in the relevant sectors would be put at risk
36% thought the idea sounded horrible
Clearly, the perception is not particularly positive. It should be noted that an impressive number of respondents, all things considered, recognised positive impacts such as not needing to kill animals (49%), it could alleviate hunger (45%) and the process would be more sustainable (35%). Nevertheless, the prevailing attitude seems to be "It's not the real thing." A major hurdle to overcome, for sure. Perhaps if "lab meat" was significantly cheaper, it would gradually erode some of these concerns. The challenge will be, of course, to achieve the needed economies of scale.
If it tastes great, will anyone at family dinner actually mind?
What do you think? Is lab-grown meat the future? Would you purchase and consume it if the product was practically indistinguishable from the "traditional form"?
Find out more about Factory Farming: https://amzn.to/2LwS7yf
As a side-note, similar issues (environmental, ethical and so forth) abound in the dairy industry as well. At least one start-up is hard at work on producing artificial milk products (Wired, 2015). Would such a product be more unusual than the status-quo? Curiously, we seem to be the only species that regularly seeks out the milk of another species for consumption (The Naked Scientists, 2011)
Ensia, 2015 (Reubold, T.). These Maps Show Changes in Global Meat Consumption by 2024. Here's Why that Matters. Accessed 01.03.18. https://ensia.com/articles/these-maps-show-changes-in-global-meat-consumption-by-2024-heres-why-that-matters/
OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook (2017). "Meat Consumption". Accessed 01.03.18. https://data.oecd.org/agroutput/meat-consumption.htm
The Naked Scientists, 2011. "Are humans the only Animal to Drink Milk for Another Species?". Accessed 01.03.18. https://www.thenakedscientists.com/articles/questions/are-humans-only-animal-drink-milk-other-species
Wired, 2015 (Wohlsen, M.), "Cow Milk Without the Cow is Coming to Change Food Forever". Accessed: 01.03.18. https://www.wired.com/2015/04/diy-biotech-vegan-cheese/
YouGov, 2018. "No Demand for Fake Meat". Accessed 01.03.18. https://au.yougov.com/news/2018/02/22/no-demand-for-fake-meat/