By Dani Taylor
It may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but synthetic meat and dairy products could soon be found in grocery stores worldwide. As more individuals choose to eat a plant-based diet, the demand for vegan products continues to grow. It can be challenging to find a meat or dairy substitute that tastes good and isn’t overloaded with chemicals or artificial flavors. Fortunately, science is advancing in this area of food technology. Interest in lab-created meat and dairy products has skyrocketed due to environmental and ethical concerns. With all the progress made, the world will likely see a significant change in this particular industry within the next ten years.
As concerns about the environment continue to grow, so does the need for solutions. Animal agriculture is a massive contributor to climate change. The greenhouse emissions that are a byproduct of raising animals for food are devastating to the environment. Animal agriculture surpasses transportation as the top producer of greenhouse gases due in part to the methane produced by animals. Water pollution due to run-off is another primary concern. The impact this pollution has on oceans and other water resources is evident in places like the Gulf of Mexico, where fish and algae populations are suffering.
In addition, the space, food, and water needed to farm animals come at a high cost. Forested areas are destroyed to make room for factory farms. Food and water that should be conserved are used to raise animals instead. For many nations throughout the world, this cost will likely become too high to sustain. Lab-created foods offer an alternative that could positively affect the environment instead of destroying it.
Advances in medicine provide humans the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives. However, the food we eat can affect the quality of life that we enjoy. Many individuals choose a vegan lifestyle to improve their health. By eating a plant-based diet, it’s possible to lower cholesterol, increase energy, and prevent unnecessary antibiotics from entering the body.
The improved taste, texture, and nutrition found in lab-created meat and dairy products could lead curious consumers to try a plant-based diet, especially as concerns regarding the overuse of antibiotics continue to rise. Since these products contain no antibiotics, they offer a “clean” meat and dairy alternative, lowering the risk of antibiotic resistance.
Consumption of traditional animal products carries health risks that can be prevented by eating more plant-based foods. Not only does the consumption of meat affect each body directly, but the production adversely affects the air we breathe and the water we drink. Lab-made meat and dairy have the potential to replace animal products and possibly improve the health of people around the world.
The costs related to farming, in general, have risen substantially over the years. Animal agriculture is a huge industry that must pass on the increase in prices to consumers. This is unlikely to change and will more likely get worse. Although lab-created meat and dairy products are still in the beginning stages and, therefore, fairly expensive at this point, they are likely to become more affordable over time.
With continued backing from investors and popularity amongst consumers, lab-grown meat and dairy could be the future of food. If the value of these products makes sense, companies offering alternatives to traditional meat and dairy will likely be successful.
One argument that opponents of lab-grown meat and dairy products may use is that the flavors of animal products can’t be accurately replicated. While there may be slight differences in taste, consumers are unlikely to be able to tell the difference in many cases. There are even opportunities to expand the flavors currently found in nature by combining them into new creations. Since scientists can extract specific cells, they can plan exactly which tastes are highlighted in a piece of created meat. A designer lab-created steak may be available sooner rather than later. This could revolutionize the restaurant industry and make room for all kinds of new food technology.
While agriculture remains a vital part of our lives, much of the food grown around the world is fed to animals in preparation for slaughter. By taking animal agriculture out of the equation, we can feed hungry people throughout the world. Lab-created meat and dairy products offer a protein alternative that uses less water and space and wastes less potential plant material.
With all of the resources available today, it is devastating that so many people experience chronic hunger. Quality food in the form of lab-grown meat and dairy could be a dramatic difference-maker, providing nutrition without harming the environment in the process.
Animal suffering is a huge concern among vegans. Prevention of this suffering is a top reason that many people choose to eat a plant-based lifestyle. Billions of animals are killed every year for human consumption. With all of the alternatives available, this suffering is unnecessary. The addition of lab-made meat and dairy may offer a more enticing substitute than ever before.
The process of extracting cells needed to create lab-grown meat is cruelty-free. There is no need to feed, water, or breed animals to produce these products. Cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, and other animals will not be slaughtered to feed humans. The waste and pollution created during the farming and processing of animals are eliminated. We may even look back and wonder why we continued using animals as food for as long as we did. For these ethical reasons alone, lab-grown meat and dairy products should be explored as a genuine alternative to traditional animal products.
The way we eat in the future is determined by the advances in food technology happening right now. The potential benefits of replacing traditional animal products with lab-created ones are evident. While we may still be a few years away from seeing lab-grown meat and dairy products in every supermarket, the idea that the possibility exists is exciting.