Only started looking into this but I think it might have long term potential.
Wiki describes it as follows;
‘Cultured meat, also called synthetic meat, cell-cultured meat and in vitro meat, is meat grown in cell culture instead of inside animals’
However… ‘Due to technical challenges associated with scaling and cost-reduction, cultured meat has not yet been commercialized. ‘
A financial reward of $1million was apparently put up to the first company to bring lab-grown chicken meat to consumers by 2012. Obviously that came and went.
The Dutch government has put US$4 million into experiments regarding cultured meat which may yield progress. As of 2012, 30 laboratories from around the world have announced that they are working on cultured meat research.
First public trial
On August 5, 2013, the world’s first lab-grown burger was cooked and eaten at a news conference in London. Scientists from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, led by professor Mark Post, had taken stem cells from a cow and grown them into strips of muscle which they then combined to make a burger. The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGeown of Couch’s Great House Restaurant, Polperro, Cornwall, and tasted by critics Hanni Ruetzler, a food researcher from the Future Food Studio and Josh Schonwald. Ruetzler stated,
“There is really a bite to it, there is quite some flavour with the browning. I know there is no fat in it so I didn’t really know how juicy it would be, but there is quite some intense taste; it’s close to meat, it’s not that juicy, but the consistency is perfect. This is meat to me… It’s really something to bite on and I think the look is quite similar.”
Ruetzler added that even in a blind trial she would have taken the product for meat rather than a soya copy.
Post remarked that “there’s no reason why it can’t be cheaper…If we can reduce the global herd a millionfold, then I’m happy”. Post estimates it will probably take at least a decade before the process becomes commercially viable(this probably gives better context to that time dated $1m reward).
This sounds positive;
‘Researchers have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids could be added to cultured meat as a health bonus. In a similar way, the omega-3 fatty acid content of conventional meat can also be increased by altering what the animals are fed. An issue of Time magazine has suggested that the cell-cultured process may also decrease exposure of the meat to bacteria and disease..’
And so does this…
‘Due to the strictly controlled and predictable environments of both cultured meat farming and vertical farming, it is predicted that there will be reduced exposure to dangerous chemicals like pesticides and fungicides, severe injuries, and wildlife…’
And this doesn’t sound so bad at all…
‘Research has shown that environmental impacts of cultured meat are significantly lower than normally slaughtered beef. A study by researchers at Oxford and the University of Amsterdam found that cultured meat was “potentially … much more efficient and environmentally-friendly”, generating only 4% greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the energy needs of meat generation by up to 45%, and requiring only 2% of the land that the global meat/livestock industry does..’
The Australian bioethicist Julian Savulescu said “Artificial meat stops cruelty to animals, is better for the environment, could be safer and more efficient, and even healthier. We have a moral obligation to support this kind of research. It gets the ethical two thumbs up.”
This would not be so good though;
‘Cultured meat needs technically sophisticated production methods making it harder for communities to produce food self-sufficiently and potentially increasing dependence on global food corporations’
And there is the small matter of this reality to overcome;
‘The production of cultured meat is currently very expensive – in 2008 it was about US$1 million for a piece of beef weighing 250 grams (0.55 lb) – and it would take considerable investment to switch to large scale production. ‘
Vitro Meat Consortium has estimated that with improvements to current technology there could be considerable reductions in the cost of cultured meat . They estimate that it could be produced for €3500/tonne (US$5424/tonne in March 2008), which is about twice the cost of unsubsidized conventional European chicken production.
In a March 2015 interview with Australia’s ABC, Mark Post said that the marginal cost of his team’s original €250,000 burger was now €8.00. He estimates that technological advancements would allow the product to be cost-competitive to traditionally sourced beef in approximately ten years.
Generally speaking I’d say that all looks very positive. It seems mainly to be a matter of cost. If it can be made financially viable on a large scale then other considerations may not be that much of a deal. If Post is right that he got his original $250k burger down to $8 than thats already about what you might pay for a decent burger in a restaurant. Its definitely heading in a constructive direction imo. If its safe to eat and viable to produce then I dont say any problem with it. If it were marketed well and didnt end up going down the same route as how Tofu was (and is) marketed then in the future maybe most people would eat it instead of conventionally produced meat.
The process itself doesnt sound very appetising, but the conventional process isn’t exactly appretising either, less so in actual fact. I think if they can get the taste and texture right then people would buy into it. Meat workers needn’t even lose work if there was a transition – they could be retrained to produce meat this way instead.