W. Johnson, A. Maynard, and S. Kirshenbaum. “Burgers grown in a lab are heading to your plate. Will you bite?” The Washington Post, Sept. 2018. Online:
About the article author
Walter Johnson is a Juris Doctorate candidate, Andrew Maynard is Arizona State University director of the Risk Innovation Lab, and Sheril Kirshenbaum is an associate research scientist at Michigan State University.
Most people love a great barbeque – great friends, outside fun, and the smell of sizzling burger patties cooking on the grill. However, the meat industry uses immense amounts of natural resources and produces about a fifth of the world’s greenhouses gases. Imagine if there were a way to sustainably eat actual meat. This “clean meat” may be a reality. By extracting adult stem cells from livestock, scientists are engineering meat products in labs without needing to raise or slaughter animals. Growing these cells on scaffolds allows scientists to develop burgers, nuggets, and different meat products that actually taste like meat because, as the authors put it, “…it’s made from animal cells, rather than plant-based products that lack animal tissue but try to look and taste like it.” Lab cultured meat is a possible way to produce meat in an ethical and sustainable manner.
With the potential of lab cultured meat, there are disagreements with the FDA and different members of the livestock industry regarding the labelling of the meat products. Should the product be labeled as “in vitro” or “artificial meat”? Different players in the industry want to label the meat differently – some want to make the clear distinction between farmed and lab meat whereas others feel “lab” meat gives a negative connotation to the product. In addition, is the lab meat just as nutritious and safe as meat from the cow? While cultured meat has potential, there are still multiple regulatory and research steps needed before it becomes a reality.
I agree with the authors that lab cultured meat has great potential to provide an effective meat alternative to the traditional, resource intensive meat industry. As climate change is a very critical issue, engineers must work to develop new technologies and solutions to help slow these effects. I also believe labelling this meat in a positive way will be critical for the success of the product. The article points out that younger consumers (ages 18-29) were five times more likely to try this cultured meat compared to people over the age of 55 and 44% of college graduates would also try it. If marketed properly, lab grown meat may persuade younger consumers to switch to the sustainable product, making lab meat a viable alternative.