Though Dutch scientists hope to begin selling synthetic hamburgers this year in the United Kingdom, lab-grown meat is far from becoming common.
According to Maastricht University professor-researcher Dr. Mark Post, in-vitro meat is a serious response to the ethical, nutritional and environmental problems caused by the large-scale factory farming of livestock, which produces huge amounts of greenhouse gases and waste.
The United Nations World Health Organization estimates that global demand for meat will double in the next 40 years. With so much farmland being used for meat production, and with livestock using 10 percent of the world’s fresh water, traditional farming might become unsustainable.
“Right now, we are using more than 50 percent of all our agricultural land for livestock,” said Post. “We have to come up with alternatives… [or] meat will become… very, very expensive.”
The Next Nature Foundation states that synthetically-grown meat would use only one percent of the land and four percent of the water used by conventional meat farming while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 96 percent.
Yet there are still obstacles to synthetically-grown meat. One is cost of production, estimated at around $300,000 for the first burger. Another is public response.
“It doesn’t sound appetizing,” said Irvine High senior Summer Crawley. “You don’t know what methods they’ll use to grow the meat, and it feels artificial.”
However, Post feels the unsustainability of current meat production methods will leave synthetic meat as one of the only options for continued consumption. He believes the technology can be adapted for mass production within twenty years and that there will be demand for it. He also hopes to enlist celebrity chefs to help popularize the food.
Irvine High senior Max Chen is already interested.
“I would definitely eat the synthetic meat,” Chen said. “There’s essentially no difference, and it’s a lot more efficient. Factory farming produces waste that pollutes our planet and uses up resources [by] raising livestock [inefficiently].”