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Fifty years hence, we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.
—Winston Churchill, 1931
Imagine a meat-eater and a vegan sharing a burger, can you? Well, if you can’t, things are going to get crazy for you. There is animal-free, cruelty-free and environment friendly meat in the future. This meat will be grown in cell culture instead of inside animals. Yes, you’ve read it right. You will be able to enjoy your favourite meat without any animal slaughter.
A pretty incredible and revolutionary movement is in progress to develop lab-grown meat products that are produced without the need to slaughter animals. It’s called cellular agriculture. Cellular agriculture uses the advancements in tissue-engineering, material sciences, bioengineering and synthetic biology to design ways of producing existing agricultural products like milk, meat, fragrances, etc., from cells and microorganisms. Meat will be produced by taking cells from healthy animals without harming them. These cells will then be cultured to grow into larger chunks of meat. The meat chunks would be free of any antibiotics or other chemical treatments. They would then be ready to be consumed as food.
That’s exactly what Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University, Netherlands did. He created the first cell-cultured hamburger in London, England in August 2013. A few stem cells were taken from a cow and grown into strips of muscle, which were then combined to make a burger. The food critics who tasted it said, “it’s close to meat, it’s not that juicy, but the consistency is perfect”.
Since then, there have been significant advances in this field. A Silicon Valley startup – Memphis Meats, fried the first ever lab meatball in 2016. In March 2017, it showcased the first cultured poultry-based foods.
Another startup from Israel, SuperMeat has raised a funding of $3 Million, aiming to bring edible lab-grown poultry meat to the market within three years. There is an ever growing demand for meat. This demand is usually met by injecting the animals with chemicals which are eventually consumed by us. Let’s not forget the carbon footprint of the meat. The entire idea behind the lab-grown meats is to meet the demands without further deteriorating the environment, animal welfare and human health.
The major challenge in the lab-grown meat industry would be pricing this meat vis-a-vis the regular ones and scale up productions. Before that, there is a long road ahead for ‘Cultured Meat’ to finally be produced for consumption by us. It is undergoing a lot of research and development and is still in its ‘prototype’ stage with a requirement of a lot of funding. That said, the time isn’t far when meat-eaters and vegans will be able to share the same burger without any of them compromising on their tastes and ‘isms’.
So, would you shift your loyalties from the regular meat to the lab-grown ones? Or would the possibility of cruelty-free meat convince a vegan to try it?
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