The lab-grown meat industry is starting to make its way onto public plates, but there’s still one obstacle in the way for high-tech meat creators to market their product — how do you make “cultured” meat sound tasty?
Organizations like Good Food Institute (GFI) have an idea. For them, it’s all about reminding consumers of the ethical choice and environmental benefits consumers prioritize when choosing lab-grown meat and other “bizarre” but eco-friendly food options.
A beef patty grown in a lab saves 600 gallons of water compared to raising cattle, and can even be healthier as scientists are able to better control the ratios of fat and protein in a patty. In addition, livestock use up about 30% of the world’s landmass and they’re horribly inefficient at converting energy.
Alternatively, a beef patty made in a lab can save all this, plus reduce food waste from animal parts not used by the meat industry. But it’s going to take some perception change.
Even the environmental benefits behind cultured meat can be hard to swallow when other terminology like “stem cells,” “vitro,” and “cultured” remind you more of the doctor’s office than lunchtime.
Currently, the label for “lab-grown” meat emphasizes the stem cell technology used to make meat products in labs. But new food companies and organizations, like GFI, want to change that.
They’re proposing and lobbying in Washington to call new sustainable alternatives to meat and dairy “clean food,” or clean meat in the case of lab-grown meat products.
So what could you see stocked on store shelves in the “clean food” section? Anything that has a positive sustainability impact or is more humane compared to traditional meat and dairy industry, according to GFI. This ranges from high-tech plant-based innovations like the Impossible Burger to meat grown in labs.
It’s been three years since the first piece of meat made in lab, created by a group of Dutch scientists, passed an exclusive taste test in London. At the time the cultured meat cost $320,000 to create. Since then more research and development in high-tech food (like the Impossible Burger) and other lab-grown meats have been underway in labs all over the world.
“Lab-grown” meat is now being made by several food technology companies, like Memphis Meats. The basis for meat grown in labs is similar. Scientists start with an animal stem cell (cow to make a beef patty) and grow it into muscle tissue. To turn this animal muscle tissue into a product fit for human consumption, scientists grow the cells along a scaffold and exercise the tissue to get the right texture, structure and strength — similar to a farm-raised beef patty minus the methane, and SUV-sized carbon footprint.
Scientists are also able to grow only the parts of an animal that people want to eat. This means less wasted animal by-product and overall food waste.
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The process of making meat in labs has led to a more sustainable, cleaner, alternative to large-scale animal agriculture which currently dominates the meat industry leaving a trail of environmental damage along the way.
Between the Impossible Burger, a vegan yogurt replicating cow’s milk, “clean meat” meatballs, and even lab-grown diamonds (backed by Leo Dicaprio), more high-tech options will be entering markets and it’s time to become an informed consumer for each of these up-and-coming options. Acknowledging the sustainable benefits these alternative products will have is a good place to start.
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