Cultured meat represents the production of meat products outside of an animal and in vitro. It is manufactured from animal cells sourced directly from slaughtered animals, thus providing an alternative way of production compared to traditional livestock (Post et al., 2020; Poore and Nemecek, 2018). Cultured meat is only starting to be commercialized, with companies working to bring the product to the market in recent years (Rubio et al., 2020). The product is important for providing an opportunity to reshape the environmental impact of the meat industry.
Use of Resources
Compared to the production of meat from livestock, cultured meat requires fewer resources. For example, the product requires between 7 to 45% less energy for manufacturing the same volume of pork, beef, and lamb (University of Oxford, 2022). Even though it will require more energy compared to poultry, cultured meat needs a fraction of the land area necessary for rearing chickens (Searchinger et al., 2018; Reese, 2018). In terms of water use, cultured meat requires 96% less water than the conventional product (University of Oxford, 2022). Thus, the volumes of the resources used for cultivated meat are far less than meat produced from the traditional livestock method. In the long run, the shift in the production of meat from livestock to cultured options can help preserve resources that could be used elsewhere.
A critical environmental trend that affects the product in question is emissions. Cultured meat is linked to improved greenhouse gas (GHG) emission efficiency (Lynch and Pierrehumbert, 2019). Research into lab-grown meat has shown that its production could reduce greenhouse emissions by 96% (University of Oxford, 2022). However, such an impact can be reduced long term, which may not make cultured meat climatically superior to cattle as its relative impact depends on the availability of decarbonized energy generation (Lynch and Pierrehumbert, 2019). Thus, the short- and long-term benefits of cultured meat as related to emissions can differ significantly.
Prevalence of Meat Consumption
Cultured meat could be the answer to the steady demand of global society to continue consuming meat. Pro-meat beliefs are permanently reinforced by existing social norms, values, and policies (Treich, 2021). Notably, even though meat consumption is decreasing in developed countries, it is slowly increasing in the developing world and positively correlates with income (Godfray et al., 2018). Thus, cultured meat has the potential to meet the meat consumption demand.
Food Security Issues
Due to the increasing trend of meat production and consumption in developing countries, there is a severe threat to food security around the world. Since satisfying meat consumers presents strong political pressure, it is unlikely that regulators in developing regions will not implement any aggressive measures to curb the trend (Deese et al., 2021). Thus, the availability of cultured meat can allow for the promotion of “less but better” meat manufactured through agroecological farming methods (Treich, 2021). The availability of meat analogs and innovations will help strengthen food security, especially due to its increased efficiency and environmental sustainability.
Sustainable and Conscious Consumption
Despite the steady demand for meat consumption in developing regions, there is the opposite rising trend in the developing world to reduce or avoid eating meat when animal-friendly alternatives are available (Stoll-Kleeman and Schmidt, 2017). The possibility of consuming cultured meat and other protein alternatives can increase the issue’s salience, for instance, in restaurants and food chains. If the alternative is systematically available on the menu, it can significantly contribute to the changing social norm of sustainable and planet-conscious consumption.
To conclude the overview of the trends that will affect the cultured meat industry in the following three years, it is essential to look at the opportunities and threats that characterize the external factors. It is expected that the cultured meat market will continue growing because it has the potential to meet consumption trends in different parts of the world (Stephens et al., 2018). However, the exact future of the product and its success remains dependent on many factors.
There could be a situation in which cultured meat offers an economically viable solution but does not deliver the altruistic social and environmental benefits that have been linked to the technology. Specifically, total global greenhouse gas reductions may not occur if livestock slaughters are not reduced even though cultured meat production increases (Stephens et al., 2018). Besides, there is no guarantee that future cultured meat producers will pursue the social and environmental benefits inherent to the technology.
Cultured meat production opens ample opportunities for manufacturers to meet meat products’ demand while preserving resources. The availability of new high-tech alternatives to industries will broaden the selection for consumers, both those interested in meat alternatives and those interested in continuing to consume meat. Besides, animal rights are protected as animal meat is not mass produced and is instead used sustainably and with a moral purpose (Poirot, 2021). Finally, cultured meat will address several issues ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to global food security.
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Lynch, J. and Pierrehumbert, R. (2019) ‘Climate impacts of cultured meat and beef cattle’, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. Web.
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Reese, J. (2018) The end of animal farming. Boston, MT: Beacon Press.
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Searchinger, T.D., Wirsenius, S., Beringer, T. and Dumas, P. (2018) ‘Assessing the efficiency of changes in land use for mitigating climate change’, Nature, 564, pp. 249–253.
Stephens, N., Di Silvio, L., Dunsford, I., Ellis, M., Glencross, A. and Sexton, A. (2018) ‘Bringing cultured meat to market: technical, socio-political, and regulatory challenges in cellular agriculture’, Trends in Food Science & Technology, 78, pp. 155-166.
Stoll-Kleeman, S. and Schmidt, U. J. (2017) ‘Reducing meat consumption in developed and transition countries to counter climate change and biodiversity loss: a review of influence factors’, Regional Environmental Change, 17, pp. 1261-1277.
Treich, N. (2021) ‘Cultured meat: promises and challenges’, Environmental and Resource Economics, 79, pp. 33-61.
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