A few weeks ago the Council of Ministers approved it stop the production and marketing of synthetic food and feed in Italy. Controversies have arisen on many fronts. Obviously we do not go into political details.
Instead, let’s try to understand how artificial meat is obtained, what are its possible benefits, pros, cons and elements of relationship with consumers.
How did you get it?
The cultivation of this type of food derives from a mixture of various technologies exploited in the engineering of synthetic and biomedical tissues. Production of lab-grown meat begins with the extraction of stem cells from the muscles of live adult animals. An operation that can be attempted with an infinite number of species, but which up to now has been tested with cattle, pigs, turkeys, chickens, ducks and fish.
The extracted stem cells are transferred to a bioreactor, where they grow until they reach the optimal concentration and consistency. After differentiation, these cells begin to form small fibers called myotubes, which continue to grow into muscle tissue. Thus the “artificial steak” was born.
How much does it cost?
The first synthetic meat hamburger created in the history of humanity was made in London in 2013: producing it had cost more than… 375 thousand euros! A value out of scale, although in 10 years this cost has plummeted, but it is still especially high (9,000 euros per kilo). The non-profit organization Good Food Institute (GFI) has established that if it really took hold on the planet, the cost would drop to 2.30 euros per kilo by 2030, even much less than traditional meat!
The main question: is it safe?
Rachel Mazac, a researcher at the University of Helsinki and an expert in sustainable foods and alternative proteins, argues that they are no more and no less safe than conventionally obtained meat.
But with a positive point. Artificial meat would not be as dependent on the use of antibiotics, because it would grow in sterile conditions from healthy animals. Plus, it would ethically farm far fewer animals and emit fewer greenhouse gases. But there is no lack of criticism…
Having introduced the processing method and costs of synthetic meat, let’s look at its strengths and weaknesses.
Pros and cons… depends on how you grow it!
Cell cultures would have a vastly smaller impact on soil and water consumption. But there is a big problem: the possible contamination derived from the disposal of animal serum used for in vitro production. If thrown away, it is highly toxic to aquatic organisms, as well as to soils.
But that is not all. For example, if pastures were converted to intensive crops, the impact on climate change would be even worse than regular meat! Not surprisingly, permanent grasses sequester large amounts of carbon in the soil, and their conversion would release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
It’s good to remember that Farming animals for meat is to blame for up to 14.5% of all climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions! A number that is far from negligible. Finally, these practices exploit around 20% of the land as pasture and 40% of the cultivated land for food production. Almost half of the land available for agriculture.
Major contraindications in terms of CO2
A 2019 study, also reported by Focus, concluded that in some circumstances, in vitro meat production, associated almost exclusively with climate-altering CO2 emissions, could have an even bigger impact than traditional! As?
Even if methane has an immediate global warming impact 20 times greater than carbon dioxide, it dissipates in 12 to 13 years, whereas CO2 accumulates and alters the atmosphere for centuries.
The benefits for living beings are unquestionable, especially from an ethical point of view. The process would drastically reduce the need for culling, because just raising a few healthy animals would suffice to provide the necessary stem cells. Then it would be a great saving of… suffering and procreation of cattle.
Leave a Reply