The world’s pace of meat consumption is placing a significant strain on the environment. Many studies show that eating less meat is just as crucial to slowing down global warming as using solar panels and zero-emissions vehicles. Animal farming generates an obscene amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s why the demand for alternatives to animal meat has surged. Consumers are concerned about the environment and animal welfare. Two choices are rising in popularity: plant-based meats and cultured meats. The meat alternatives market is estimated to reach a worth of $140bn (£104bn) within the next decade. That’s about 10% of the $1.4tn global meat industry.
Plant-based foods’ emissions are 10 to 50 times smaller than those from animal products. Cultured (lab-grown) meats generate up to 96% fewer emissions, use up to 96% less water, and require 99% less land than traditionally farmed meats. And no animals need to be slaughtered in the process.
Several startups are developing fake meat products made from plants. Impossible Foods is one such company. It’s confident that it will replace the use of animals in food by 2035 because their alternative meat is delicious and convincing. Another is Beyond Meat. Both these brands can be seen on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus.
The more exotic idea now, but soon to become mainstream, is the lab-grown meats. Startups working in this realm include Aleph Farms, SuperMeat, and Eat Just. Their products are grown from real animal cells, but no animals were hurt or killed in the process.
It’s not as odd as it sounds. Soon it should be as normal as anything else you can buy to eat. Singapore is leading the way, becoming the first country in the world to approve the sale of Eat Just’s cultured chicken. The company will start by selling nuggets at a restaurant.
SuperMeat has been handing out lab-grown chicken burgers in Israel for free. They’re aiming to gain public acceptance of the idea.
The cultured chicken starts as a tiny number of harvested cells. Those cells are put into a bioreactor and fed the same nutrients the living animal would consume to grow. The cells multiply and turn into an edible portion of cultured chicken meat. The meat’s composition is identical to that of real chicken and offers the same nutritional value. And it’s cleaner because it’s antibiotic-free!
The Singapore Food Agency reviewed Eat Just’s repeated manufacturing control and safety testing and said:
It was found to be safe for consumption at the intended levels of use and was allowed to be sold in Singapore as an ingredient in Eat Just’s nuggets product.
Eat Just is also working on developing cultured beef from Japanese Wagyu and Californian cattle.
Josh Tetrick, Eat Just’s co-founder and CEO, said:
I’m sure that our regulatory approval for cultured meat will be the first of many in Singapore and countries around the globe. Working in partnership with the broader agriculture sector and forward-thinking policymakers, companies like ours can help meet the increased demand for animal protein as our population climbs to 9.7 billion by 2050.
Eat Just is calling Singapore’s approval a “breakthrough for the global food industry.” It hopes other countries will soon follow suit. It sure seems like things are heading in that direction. There’s even an Xprize competition going on now with a $15 million reward for the best chicken and fish alternatives!