Lab grown meat – is it good tech?
Lab grown meat is the product of new technology but is new tech good tech?
In a first, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided that a meat product grown in a lab is safe to eat. The lab-grown chicken, produced by the company Upside Foods, cannot be sold quite yet—first, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will need to inspect the company’s production facilities and product. But industry experts anticipate the USDA will approve the lab-grown meat in the coming months. The FDA’s decision so far only applies to the chicken grown by Upside Foods, but the lab-grown meat industry already consists of over 150 companies on six continents with more than $2.6 billion in combined investments, so we can expect further deliberations on future cultured meat products.
The question is whether lab-grown meat is a meat substitute or just another kind of meat? This is all so new that many don’t know how to answer that question. In one sense it’s still meat because it’s not made from plants. On the other hand it didn’t require the killing an animal.
Upside Foods’ lab-grown meat is biologically identical to standard meat, but it doesn’t require killing any chickens. Its cultivation process begins with cells extracted from real chickens, which the company then grows in tanks. With a nutrient mixture that includes fats, sugars, amino acids and vitamins, the cells mature and multiply. These cells are taken from animals, supposedly painlessly, and made into meat in bioreactors. The product therefore does not require an animal to be farmed and killed for their flesh.
Lab-grown meat also has the potential to be safer for human consumption, compared to conventional meat. Since it doesn’t involve animals that can spread diseases, people might catch foodborne illnesses less frequently. UPSIDE Foods’ chicken has fewer calories and lower fat than an average piece of conventionally-produced chicken. However, although better than actual meat, cultured meat will still have some saturated fat and cholesterol, which could increase the risk of chronic diseases when compared to plant-based alternatives.
It is hoped that the carbon footprint of lab grown meat will be less than conventional meat, and it is cruelty free. But the question remains is it still meat? That may be up to you to decide. Either way, it will be coming to a grocery store near you.