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Major news outlet Fast Company has described our ‘clean meat future’ as ‘radical – but inevitable’.
An article by writer Eillie Anzilotti looks at Paul Shapiro’s (of the Humane Society) book Clean Meat: How Eating Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World – which details the processes around, and the arguments for, clean meat.
Clean meat – also known as lab, bio, or cultured meat – is built using animal cells. It is therefore not vegan, though some vegans choose to support the concept, as it has the potential to reduce the number of animals slaughtered for food.
It is also a more environmentally-friendly option than traditional livestock farming.
According to Shapiro, we are reaching what he describes as ‘peak meat’.
He argues that it will be impossible to feed billions of people through ‘large-scale animal agriculture’ because of the environmental impact of farming – which is one of the key drivers of climate change.
It is also highly wasteful, requiring huge amounts of water and land. In addition, crops grown to feed livestock would go much further if given directly to humans.
Shapiro says: “So we’re at the point where we can try to persuade people in the United States to voluntarily eat less meat, which is a good idea, but we can also try to produce meat with fewer resources.
“It’s kind of like how you can try to get people to turn off their light bulbs more, but you can also invent a light bulb that’s so energy efficient that it wouldn’t even matter if they left it on.”
According to Anzilotti, the environmental payoff of clean meat is potentially huge: “Clean meat is the kerosene to factory farming’s whale oil.
“And arguably, it places much less of a relative drain on natural resources, as extracting petroleum still causes harm to the environment.
“While producing one pound of beef requires around 1,799 gallons of water, the Impossible Burger–the eerily meat-like substitute derived entirely from plant-based materials–uses 75% less water and generates 87% fewer greenhouse gases than traditional livestock agriculture.
“Memphis Meats, which is focused on growing chicken products (and other meats) through cell culture, claims that once the process scales, it will require significantly less water than poultry farms.”