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The average American household consumes 58.1 pounds of beef per year, and that number is expected to rise in coming years. The beef industry is costly and pollutive, using 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, needing a large area for grazing and crop production, and contributing to global warming because of methane emissions. With a growing population and heightened concern for environmental well being, scientists have been testing alternatives to conventional beef production. The best solution? Lab grown meat.
How do we produce beef without raising a cow? It’s actually relatively simple. Scientists start with a cow’s stem cells, which are then multiplied into muscle fibers until they form a entire piece of meat. It takes about 20,000 of these fibers to form a patty. As we learned in chapter six, muscles are made from structures of amino acid chains called proteins. With use of a bioreactor (a machine that maintains correct environmental conditions for cells), the specialized stem cells multiply, and assemble amino acids into proteins, which make up the beef patty. Samplers report little to no difference in the taste between a lab grown and normal beef hamburger, concluding that this method is a plausible alternative to the present way of harvesting beef.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Environmental benefits are the main reason this method of beef production is being pursued. It greatly lessens the need for as many cows, which in turn reduces the amount of water and land used by the cattle industry. The energy that goes into sanitizing and transporting that water can be saved for other process. Also, cows produce most of the methane in the atmosphere. Without as many cows, the quality of air would increase a least a bit because of the reduced methane, but mainly because not as much carbon dioxide is exuded with the transportation of cows and the materials for them.
Despite its benefits, this method is time consuming . At the moment, it takes about one year for 20,000 of these fibers to form in a biochamber. However, after the strands are formed, it only takes about two hours for scientists to assemble these and create a patty. If we can shorten the amount of time to make the fibers, this process of growing beef could become a staple of food production not only in America, but around the world. It can be expected that lab grown beef could be available commercially in the next 10- 20 years. Until then, researchers will continue to better this process.
As we become more environmentally conscious, lab grown beef will become a staple in our diets. If we can create a faster way of forming the fiber strands for the typical hamburger patty, lab grown beef can be expected in stores in the near future. Because of its similar taste as well its benefits to cows and the earth, this beef is a great alternative for our present method of patty production. Now that’s what I call neat meat.