Fake means appearing to be something it is not. If that’s the case, lab-produced meat fits this description.
In recent years, discussion about fake food has mostly been limited to deceptive practices by some members of the food and beverage industry – for example, partially or wholly substituting olive oil, wine, truffles, parmegiano and seafood with inferior products.
What’s new is that fake meat isn’t hiding from anyone. It’s in plain view, intending to be offered for sale in full transparency. And the marketing behind this early meat-making machine is both brilliant and timely.
Described as “cultured meat”, “clean meat”, “cultivated meat”, “craft meat”, “faux meat” or “alt meat”, food scientists have figured out how to make fake meat that looks like meat, tastes like meat, has the texture of meat and smells like meat. No longer does this product have to resemble the soles of shoes to be good for you. Singapore leads the pack, as the first country to approve human consumption, despite some fear mongerers calling lab-produced meat “Frankenmeat”.
“Plant-based and cultured foods are projected to take a 60% market share of global meat sales by 2040.” (Kearney, a branch of McKinsey & Company)
Cultured meat could eliminate much of the cruel, unethical treatment of animals raised for food, while reducing the considerable environmental footprint associated with meat production.
“I don’t know anyone over 40 who is saying, ‘I should eat more meat’.” (Thomas Jonas, CEO, Nature’s Fynd. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Al Gore are early investors in the enterprise)
Here’s a very compelling TED Talk from Bill Friedrich, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Good Food Institute:
Is cultured meat vegetarian or vegan? No.
Today’s new meat is made by taking a tissue sample from an animal as part of a process known as animal cell culture technology. Stem cells from the tissue are collected, then multiplied in a lab, where they are grown into primitive fibers, which then bulk up to form more substantial tissue. Similar thinking has long been a source of study to promote regrowth of damaged human tissue (for example, after a heart attack or for severe burn victims).
“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.” (British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “Fifty Years Hence”, Popular Mechanics, 1932)
One tissue sample from a cow can apparently yield enough muscle tissue to make 80,000 quarter pounders. McDonald’s reportedly sells 75 burgers a second, which translates into a need for 81 tissue samples per day, compared to 8,100 cows per day. I’m a statistician, here’s the math:
Cultured Meat Math
McDonald’s produces 75 burgers a second
There are 86,400 seconds in a day
Therefore, McDonald’s sells 6,480,000 burgers every day (86,400 x 75)
One tissue sample can make 80,000 quarter pounders
6,480,000 burgers divided by 80,000 = 81 tissue samples needed per day
Traditional Meat Math
McDonald’s sells 6,480,000 burgers every day
One cow produces enough meat for about 800 burgers
McDonald’s needs 8,100 cows to produce 6,480,000 burgers (6,480,000 divided by 800) per day
Isn’t that mind-boggling?
Cattle are the #1 agricultural source of greenhouse gases worldwide. Every year, each cow on this planet belches out about 220 pounds of methane, which is 28 times more potent in warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. There were 32.1 million beef cows in the US as of January 2021 – that’s 7 billion 62 million pounds of methane pumped out so you can enjoy burgers, steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat. That’s just greenhouse gases … what about water use, the eradication of natural habitats to grow animal feed, soil depletion and the whole works?
The environmental footprint of cultured meat will depend, in part, on the amount and type of energy that is used in the production process. Let’s hope it doesn’t go down the nasty energy consumption road of cloud computing – that recent lesson has been heard loud and clear.
With the vast majority of Americans rejecting vegetarianism or veganism, the industry appears to be ripe for this new way of producing the “meat” that most Americans crave, which, in cultivated form, now delivers an almost identical sensory experience. We eat every day, several times a day. This is a topic that must garner your attention and your actions. Climate change is no longer something that might happen to future generations – temperature extremes, forest fires and increasingly dangerous weather conditions are here now.
Paul Shapiro is considered to be an authoritative source of information about cultivated meat (which he calls Clean Meat). Why not get some needed exercise by jumping on a bike or walking to your local library to borrow his book (also available as an eBook or audio book) instead of rushing to buy one from eco-unfriendly Amazon. Alternatively, consider supporting your local, independent bookstore – an important community resource many of us have rediscovered during COVID.
“Change is hard. I don’t know if we’re going to get a clean meat revolution overnight. What I do know is that we need one.”
“We need not wait to see what others do.” (Mahatma Ghandi)
Now challenge yourself and your friends to our Fake Food Quiz of the Day, by downloading Quizefy from the app store if you haven’t already done so, then see how much you know and Strut Your Smart. Our Fake Food Quiz is only available today, then it disappears. We’ll be back again every Tuesday with a special blog posted at www.quizefy.com, along with a new trivia quiz on the same topic as the blog. Don’t forget to follow Quizefy in social media, so we can remind you of upcoming blog and quiz content.