Science is close to creating meat that doesn’t come from animals

Says Yaakov Nahmias, founder and chief scientist of the Israel-based startup Future Meat Technologies: “Right now, growing cells as meat instead of animals is a very expensive process.

But it will get cheaper, and it probably will be needed.

Global population is heading for 10 billion by 2050. Average global incomes will triple in the same period, enabling more people to eat meat-rich diets.

“We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before,” says Prof. Tim Lang of the University of London, one of the 37 scientific co-authors who wrote a report by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health. But we’ve heard it all before.

It takes seven kilograms of grain to grow one kilo of beef. We have appropriated three-quarters of the world’s fertile land for food production, and we’ll need the rest by 2050.

The world’s stocks of seafood will have collapsed by 2050. It’s all true, but we’re sick of being nagged.

The EAT-Lancet Commission even has a diet that will save the planet. Cut your beef consumption by 90 per cent (i.e., one steak a month). Eat more beans and pulses and more nuts and seeds. Going vegetarian or vegan will help even more. That’s all true too – but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

No doubt there will in due course be high taxes on meat and fish, and propaganda campaigns to persuade people to change their eating habits, and some people will change – but not enough.

We need to bring the rest of the population along, and few things are more persistent than cultural dietary preferences. Like eating meat.

So clearly there would be a huge market for real meat that didn’t come from cattle, pigs, sheep and chickens, but tastes right and doesn’t trash the environment.

We’re not talking about the famous $325,000 hamburger patty made from beef cells immersed in a growth medium that was triumphantly cooked on television six years ago.

We’re talking about a proper steak with muscle and fat cells and the right shape, taste and texture – but not one produced by the familiar process that uses huge amounts of fertile land, releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, and involves slaughtering live animals.

That is Yaakov Nahmias’s goal, and he’s pretty close now.

Future Meat Technologies produces its cell-based meat in bioreactors, growing it on lattices that give it shape and texture, but we’re not talking about giant vats in a lab. He plans to give small units to existing farmers.

He reckons that with a distributed manufacturing model, he can get the cost down to about $5 a kilogram.

Meat giant Tyson Foods recently put $2.2 million of seed money into his company. A dozen other start-ups are chasing the same goal with a total of 30 labs around the world.

Coming up behind cell-based meat, there’s the even newer concept of solar foods. A Finnish company called just that is using electricity from solar panels to electrolyze water and produce hydrogen.

The hydrogen is fed to bacteria, and the product is an edible food that is half carbohydrates, half fats and protein.

It is just as good as soya as an animal food, and it uses no land at all. No greenhouse gas emissions either, and the first factory producing it opens in two years’ time. Technology alone can’t save us, but it can certainly shift the odds in our favour.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work).

Just Posted

Global FMX riders perform heart-stopping stunts at Red Deer’s Westerner Days

‘I wanted to see how far I could push myself and my machine,’ says rider

Oil and gas well cleanup costs could hit $65 billion: industry watchdog group

Alberta government urged to undertake detailed review of cleanup costs

Fatal disease strikes Alberta sheep

Scrapie detected on two Alberta farms

UCP candidate fined $70,000

Penalty against Jeff Callaway is for two dozen separate offences

Critics and industry clash over accuracy of Alberta well cleanup cost estimates

CALGARY — An Alberta coalition that says oil and gas producers are… Continue reading

Man shouting ‘You die’ kills 33 at Japan anime studio

TOKYO — A man screaming “You die!” burst into an animation studio… Continue reading

Documents shed light on seniors poverty figures used by federal Liberals

OTTAWA — Internal government documents say that many of the 57,000 seniors… Continue reading

High court won’t hear NDP expenses case over mailings, offices

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court may have just killed off the NDP’s… Continue reading

Justin Trudeau takes aim at NDP over EU-Canada trade pact as summit wraps up

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling out New Democrats after… Continue reading

Defence calling no evidence in case of German tourist shot west of Calgary

CALGARY — The defence is calling no evidence on behalf of a… Continue reading

Tale of two libraries: Edmonton design backlash morphs into rivalry with Calgary

EDMONTON — The pitched reaction to Edmonton’s remodelled downtown library has morphed… Continue reading

Mountain pine beetle makes its way into Ponoka County

Assar Grinde has a special attachment to the pine trees that line… Continue reading

Most Read