Jon Stewart covers developments in the science around making meat without raising and killing an animal.
Jon has a laugh of course but this is actually really exciting stuff. I’ve been following the developing science around this for a while. The upsides are huge.
You can grow meat without the animal. That means no sow crates, no battery hens. It means no slaughterhouses. It means no vast acreage taken up by supplying food for animals (some quarter or a third of world grain production goes into feeding farm animals) when that land could be better used growing food to directly feed humans or left in its natural state.
It has the potential to be vastly more energy efficient. Only 1% of the energy a farm animal ingests in its lifetime ends up as food on our plates but ethical meat doesn’t require a whole animal (evolved as a reproduction machine with meat production only clamped on by domestication). Just feeding the meat that can be grown quickly means far less energy wasted. Not to mention all the reductions in transport energy – ethical meat could be grown in cities.
Then there’s the greenhouse gases. As New Zealand knows all too well, ruminant farm animals produce a lot of methane. Ethical meat won’t, no digestive bacteria breaking down the food and producing methane.
Sure, the best we can do now is like ‘soggy pork’ (getting muscle cells to reproduce is relatively easy, but meat is muscle that has worked and has other features like veins) but this is the way of the future. This is an exciting area and New Zealand would be wise to get involved in the research (something for John Key’s global partnership on reducing agricultural greenhouse emissions perhaps?).
When our meat customers in Europe and elsewhere decide they would rather have locally produced ethical meat than meat that comes from killing an animal on the other side of the world and shipping its remains over to them, we’ll want to be owning the intellectual property on ethical meat techniques.