Given the vast ethical and environmental problems involved in the raising and slaughtering of livestock, alternatives to meat consumption are sorely needed. Since most people still have a hard time getting on board with vegetarianism, much less veganism, alternatives like like lab-grown meat provide an ideal solution: something as close to the real stuff as possible without all the suffering, pollution, and waste required by factory farms (moreover, the amount of water and grain saved would now go to the millions of humans who need it).
Given the considerable amount of technology involved in cultivating flesh from scratch, early versions of artificial meat were prohibitively expensive, as more $250,000 dollars per pound. But a recent report in Popular Mechanics finds that this idea has gone from proof-of-concept to commercial viability:
There are still serious roadblocks that will keep lab-grown meat from coming to supermarkets anytime soon, but according to experts, the cost of producing it is dropping drastically. According to CNET, the not-quite-vegetarian lab-grown hamburger could now be made for about $27 per pound if production were scaled up to the industrial level.
Still, the taste is … not quite there, and the burgers (built by stem cells) are slow to grow without the use of growth hormones. But as the technology improves, the meat will become closer and closer to market-ready. And unlike a veggie burger, it’s real beef. It just happened to be grown in a petri dish instead of a cow.
While nearly $30 a pound is too steep for most of us, it’s not far off from a point at which a lot of people could seriously consider whether they could, or should, buy lab-grown beef for their next BBQ rather than the old-fashioned grown-on-a-cow stuff.
Again, this is hardly a catch-all solution to all the problems associated with meat production, especially as there will always be purists who distrust or reject the very idea of synthetic meat. But given the strain on our resources and environment — which is likely to grow exponentially as more people add meat to their diets — we may not have a choice but to continue building upon this solution.
What are your thoughts?