Why lab-grown meat is so much better than the meat we already eat

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On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration completed its first premarket evaluation of Upside Foods, which grows meat from cells instead of euthanized animals. He concluded that he “had no further questions” about the safety of how the company produces its chicken. Although Upside Foods still requires approval from the Department of Agriculture before it can sell its chicken products in restaurants and supermarkets, it is a big step forward in creating a more ethical and healthy form of meat.

What these critics fail to realize is that there is nothing “natural” about the vast majority of meat already eaten in the US.

Not everyone, of course, is rooting for chicken-less chicken. Cell-cultured meat has been the subject of suspicion of organizations working to protect human health, and even with preliminary FDA approval, some remain unconvinced. For example, the Center for Food Safety called the FDA’s evaluation “extremely inappropriate” in a press release and called for “more research and more transparent data” before determining whether cell-grown meat is sure for human consumption.

And some members of the general public are also delicate on meat grown in cells. Public opinion polls have found that consumers, especially older and less educated buyers, doubt accept cell-cultured meat as a viable food option.

Caution isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but these criticisms of cell-grown meat are just thinly disguised neophobia — people just feel like it’s “unnatural.” In fact, cell-grown meat comes from labs, not farms. But what these critics fail to realize is that there is nothing “natural” about the vast majority of meat already eaten in the US.


In this photo taken on February 15, 2019, laboratory automation engineer Chigozie Nri prepares nutrients to feed cells, as research director Nicholas Legendre looks on, in the laboratory of cultured meat startup New Age Meats, which has produced cell-based pork in San Francisco.  A growing number of startups around the world are producing cultured or cell-based meat that doesn't require slaughtering animals.
Lab automation engineer Chigozie Nri, left, prepares nutrients to feed cells, as research director Nicholas Legendre looks on, in the lab of cultured meat startup New Age Meats, which has produced pork based on cells in San Francisco on February 15, 2019.Terry Chea/AP File

For starters, according to an analysis of USDA Census of Agriculture data by the Sentience Institute, 99% of animals raised for food live on factory farms. On these farms, cattle are given small doses of antibiotics regularly as a preventative measure against disease. This is because the animals are so crowded together that infections spread rapidly from one to another.

Then there is the fact that these animals eat an abnormal diet. Cows, for example, see less grass than before; instead they are corn fed in feedlots, where they are fattened before being sent to the slaughterhouse.

Even the animals themselves are drastically different from what our grandparents ate growing up: the chickens, cows, pigs Y even the fish that we eat today are the product of intense genetic engineering. As many prepare to eat turkey for Thanksgiving on Thursday, keep in mind that the birds are not only selectively bred and larger than their wild ancestors, but are no longer able to mate on their own, depending on artificial insemination exist.

It’s hard to argue that there’s anything “natural” about the artificially inseminated, genetically engineered, corn-fed, pharmaceutical-fed animals being raised on the average farm today.

To no one’s surprise, cell-cultured meat also faces criticism from some animal rights activists, albeit for a very different reason: Because cell culture requires seed cells taken from real animals, cell-cultured meat does not. Is completely cruelty free. There is truth in this. fetal bovine serum (FBS), extracted from unborn cow fetuses after the dam is slaughtered, is used by many companies at the forefront of cell-cultured meat experimentation. Upside Foods uses a small amount of fbs early in production to maintain cell growth and viability, as well as chicken cells removed from the muscle and fertilized ova of real chickens.

But the process that Upside Foods and many of their industry cohorts Today, the use is still much more animal-friendly than the traditional production and slaughter of cattle. Although FBS is extracted from euthanized animals, extraction from muscle or from a fertilized egg is analogous to a biopsy — perhaps slightly unpleasant to the animal but hardly comparable to the abuse Y mutilation Experience with farm animals.

Furthermore, according to the company websitehis process of establishing a cell line from a biopsy can produce enough meat “for years, if not decades, to come, reducing the need to sample additional cells from animals.”

Since large-scale cell-cultured meat could reduce the number of animals confined and euthanized in thousands of millions each year at just a fraction of that, there is an ethical imperative to make the switch.

Still, others argue that to improve human health, people need to cut out meat altogether and eat more whole, plant-based foods. These health-conscious critics point out that the average American ate about 225 pounds of meat in 2021 – the highest in recorded history. Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 10 Americans get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet.

It is true that people reduce your risk of diet-related diseases, such as heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and obesity, if they switched from eating bacon and wings to eating apples and kale. The reality, however, is that people do not want to. Public health authorities have been advising citizens for decades to reduce meat consumption and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. I even founded a non-profit organization, Reducetarian Foundationwith exactly that goal in mind.

But I have accepted that taste preferences, habits, and cultural traditions are almost impossible to overcome. If they weren’t, and consumers made purely rational health-based food choices, salads would be the classic American dish, not hamburgers. Since there are other public health benefits to ending factory farms, such as reducing air and water pollution as much as antibiotic resistance Y zoonotic disease — health advocates should do no harm by supporting cell-grown meat.

And over time, cell-grown meat can become nutritionally superior to meat from animals that are slaughtered anyway. As pointed out by a group of scientists in a role of 2022“Control over cell biology… allows fine-tuning of nutritional properties to improve human health, where muscle and fat cells can be engineered to produce vital nutrients such as antioxidant carotenoids that would otherwise be missing (or only in low concentrations). ) in conventional meat.”

As with any new technology, the trajectory for cell-grown meat is likely to face a series of obstacles. But at the end of the day, a lot of the criticism is weak, illogical, or just plain naive. No, cell-cultured meat, as we currently know it, is not perfect. But since it could save billions of animals from suffering and even improve public health, it’s worth a try.

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