Letter: Clean meat is the future solution to animal agriculture

Recently Memphis Meats, an innovative food company, revealed a chicken strip produced without killing a chicken. While unavailable for public consumption, the process marks a pioneering step in the future of meat production.

Memphis Meats’ process of meat production is termed cell agriculture. This process involves obtaining cell samples from a particular animal, in this case a chicken, and growing them in an external medium under favourable conditions until they are ready for consumption. As well, meat obtained in this way is not genetically modified or altered. It is called clean meat.

Food consumption is deeply rooted in culture and familiarity. Thus, the novelty of clean meat’s process can be disconcerting for some. However, a quick perusal through the grocery store reveals that a multitude of common food items ranging from potato chips to cereal have been produced by innovative technologies.

More importantly, clean meat addresses the urgent issue of traditionally sourced meat, which is both unsustainable for the environment and unhealthy for the consumer.

On average, it requires 12 pounds of grain and in excess of 400 pounds of water to obtain one pound of beef. This ratio reveals the inefficiency and misuse of resources inherent in current meat production practices. In addition, animal rearing practices can lead to the loss of sensitive ecological habitats, water pollution and greenhouse emissions, further illustrating the unsustainable nature of animal agriculture.

Despite these detrimental effects, global demand for meat is increasing. Last year 55 billion animals were reared for human consumption. To serve this demand, most animals are reared in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOS).

Aside from the inherent cruelty embedded in these practices, these facilities harbour diseases which frequently lead to global outbreaks such as Avian Flu, Swine Flu, and Foot and Mouth Disease. These unsanitary conditions result in meat that is contaminated and unfit for consumption. For example, more than half of chicken meat found in American grocery stores contains antibiotic-resistant salmonella.

Clean meat production is in its infancy, but it shows much promise. And while clean meat is currently expensive to produce, scaling up will allow this type of meat to be obtained at an affordable price.

Clean meat represents a breakthrough in animal agriculture. It reconciles the increasing global demand for meat while greatly reducing the detrimental environmental effects associated with traditional meat production, thereby exemplifying the role of science and innovation to create a better future.