Letter: Clean meat-a friendly future for food

Recent breakthroughs in science have allowed for meat to be grown and harvested without an animal, thus allowing for the consumption of meat without the requisite slaughter of animals.

This modern breakthrough is called ‘clean meat.’ Clean meat involves the growth of stem cells in an external medium, or bioreactor. The stem cells differentiate and can produce a variety of meats. Clean meat is identical to traditionally-sourced meat, which is primarily composed of 75 per cent water, 20 per cent protein, and five per cent fat.

Last year, 56 billion animals were slaughtered for human consumption. In North America and most of the developed world, several animals are primarily used for meat: chicken, cattle, pigs, turkey, duck, lamb, and fish. These animals serve as the culinary foundation from which most animal-based meals are composed.

Meat consumption is a resource-intensive process resulting in greenhouse gas emissions and the inordinate use of crops and natural resources. However, one of the most disquieting issues is the rearing and slaughter of animals necessary for obtaining meat.

Many meat animals are raised in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) which are high-density animal factories. Examples of CAFO practices include gestation crates for pigs and veal crates for calves. In these environments, the animal’s most basic needs, such as turning and walking, are highly restricted, leading to severe physiological and psychological trauma.

However, public awareness about these practices, coupled with consumer demands, have resulted in an attempt to create more humane and just living standards for animals.

Yet the question of slaughter remained—until now.

Some concern has been raised about the ‘naturalness’ of clean meat. This is understandable as novel methods take time for public acceptance. However, many routinely consumed foods today are not “natural.” These include cereal, ice cream, and processed meats such as hot dogs.

At present, the current global population is about seven billion and is set to increase to nine billion by 2050. Coupled with this, demand for animal-based proteins is increasing, thus making current methods of meat production ecologically unfeasible.

The presentation of an alternate method in the form of clean meat resolves a multitude of pressing ethical and environmental issues. Clean meat is in its infancy and requires greater scientific innovations to fully reach its potential. A new age of animal agriculture awaits.