In the news today, there was an update on efforts to create lab-grown beef by scientists in the Netherlands (for the article, click here). Basically, they are using bovine stem cells to grow thin layers of muscle cells and will then combine that muscle with lab-grown animal fat to create “hamburger.” Despite the initial “yuck” reaction that some may have, it’s important to look deeper at both sides of the argument.
Supporters of this new technology tout its potential for alleviating environmental strains as well as feeding the world. Meat production in its current incarnation uses a considerable amount of land space. Between the feed lots where the animals are raised to the acres of GMO corn that are grown to feed them, the impact is undeniable. In addition, the run-off from the farms and feed-lots pollutes the surrounding areas. Also important to consider is the inhumane treatment that these animals are subjected to and unnatural conditions that encourage the growth of E.coli and other potentially harmful bugs. In addition, with an ever-growing population, could this be a solution to feeding hungry mouths?
On the other hand, many question the nutritional value of this new product, as well as flavor and texture. How will it measure up to the real thing? Another concern is its safety. Are there unforseen health implications to consuming this new product?
In my opinion, lab-grown meat is not something we should be eating. While I agree with the concerns about the environmental implications of raising meat on factory farms, the solution is not lab-grown meat. Rather, it is to return to the most physiological method: pasture-raised beef. Cows are designed to eat grass, not corn. It’s when we feed these animals corn that dangers such as E. coli begin to flourish. When cows are fed grass (what they’re supposed to eat), these issues are practically non-existent. This method also grows the soil, rather than degrading it, eliminating the problem of toxic run-off. As far as “feeding the world” is concerned, it is important to note that individuals in developed nations generally consume far more meat that is necessary and have a propensity towards obesity. The issue isn’t a lack of calories, but the distribution and quality of those calories. Food waste is another problem which results in much of the edible food on our planet spoiling before it can be consumed.
In short, many of the problems that lab-grown meat is proposed to solve already have a viable, well researched solution without the problem of unknown product quality or, even worse, negative health implications.
Tell me, what are your feelings about lab-grown beef?