World News

Cow Free Burger

The Growing Industry of Biotechnology

Imagine biting into a juicy beef burger that was produced without killing a cow. This can be possible through the latest technological innovations, such as biotechnology. This is leading to new medical innovations, agricultural innovations, and new food technologies. As the world continues to grow, so does the preference of consumers. Therefore, new food technologies are being developed to connect closely to consumer preferences. 

Most people enjoy the taste of burgers, steaks, bacon, and ribs however, meat farming is a major contributor to greenhouse gases that drive climate change. Therefore, consumers are switching to a more plant-based diet as a means to combat the negative effects of meat consumption. To satisfy these consumers who are making a sacrifice to save the planet, scientists and engineers are attempting to efficiently grow imitation meat in the lab using all kinds of techniques from volcano-dwelling microbes to stem cells. 



What is lab-grown meat?

Lab-grown meat also known as clean meat or cultured meat is engineered in a laboratory rather than a field. It involves extracting muscle tissue from animals and growing it in bioreactors. Lab-grown meat might not sound appealing, but it could play a huge part in diets in the coming decades. 

Back in 2013, a team of Dutch scientists displayed the first lab-grown meat burger. The patty cost more than $325,000 to produce, looked real, but the taste needed more work. Since then cultured has continued to develop, achieving real progress. In fact, several food-tech starts-ups have rushed into the market, eager to create their clean dishes and thus replace meaty dishes.

In 2018, a food-tech company announced that it had created the first chicken nuggets grown from the cells of a chicken feather. However, the cost for the chicken nugget still needs work currently costing about $100 per nugget. Furthermore, in December 2018 an Israeli company revealed that it had created the first lab-grown steak from cells to obtain a muscle-like texture similar to conventional meat. The steak is still not a complete product, with the taste still needing perfecting. Currently, a small strip of this steak costs $50. Compared to the Dutch team’s $325,000 cultured burger, the cost of lab-grown meat is dropping rapidly. Three years ago it dropped to $11 from $17/kg. Industry insiders predict prices will continue to drop rapidly eventually reaching $1/kg by 2020.

Why is it necessary?

According to the World Resources Institute, if 30% of the beef in every American burger were replaced by mushrooms, a reduction in greenhouse emissions equal to removing 2.3 million vehicles would be achieved. The production of lab-grown meat will result in a significant reduction in livestock, which could reduce contributions to climate change. 

The world’s population is estimated to increase, meaning more meat-eaters. In fact, the UN expects the world to have 9.8 billion people by 2050. Furthermore, those people are getting richer. Neither trend helps combat climate change as people who escape poverty tend to eat more meat. This makes sense from an economic point of view. As nations become wealthier, the middle class will have more resources to purchase more meat-based solutions. 

There is also water to consider. Water wasting is already a major problem around the world, but even a larger issue in the production of meat. According to PETA, to produce about a half kilo of meat requires more than 9085 liters compared to about 95 liters for lab-grown meat. According to this research, environmentally conscious consumers could save more water by not eating meat than by not showering for six months. 

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