A meaty option

A meaty option

Apart from being a healthy switch to make from animal meat to plant-based meat, people are also becoming more aware of the environmental benefits it has to offer, writes Vivek Phadnis

Think about a scenario where you bite into a juicy chicken burger and enjoy the meal to the hilt more so because there is no cruelty involved as the meat is not from a slaughtered animal but has been instead grown in a lab. Not only is the meat cruelty-free, but far less water and other natural resources have been used. And there is no question of antibiotics at all. All the banes of factory farming are gone. This way, both the environment and the person consuming the food stand to gain. 

Plant-based meat is obviously made from plant sources, while cultured meat is made from cells taken from an animal, which is not harmed at all.  

Singapore has given regulatory approvals and it is available in restaurants now. It is available in other countries as well but is not that popular as people are used to eating meat from a slaughtered animal. While some think cultured meat is a good idea, others think it is not. It is going to take some more time for people to get used to the concept of artificial meat.  

Currently, beef, poultry, pork, and seafood are being grown in labs. US companies and startups like Memphis Meats (founded by Indian-origin Uma Valeti), Mosa Meat, SuperMeat, and Finless Foods have been at it for a few years now. Clear Meat is an Indian company based in Delhi that is into cruelty-free meat. 

Even the Humane Society International (India), CSIR’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and National Research Centre on Meat have embarked on a project to produce clean meat. This project is being funded by the Union Government’s Department of Biotechnology. The Good Food Institute India (GFI India) has also been a key partner on this project, and was responsible for bringing together the CCMB and the National Research Centre on Meat, drafting and presenting the research proposal to the Government of India, and securing INR 4.6 cr for R&D. 

But, what is the problem with the meat we are eating now? The most obvious is the extreme cruelty that animals have to suffer, whether it is in the rearing, transporting or during slaughter. 

Rearing animals for meat, dairy and eggs is a resource-intensive task with a lot of water required. Moreover, it makes enormous contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, land and water contamination, deforestation, among other environmental challenges.  

Meat and dairy production use vast tracts of land and if the same was used for vegetarian food production, a lot of hunger problems could get resolved. Food-borne illnesses like salmonella and E. coli are from conventional meat. Since cultured meat is grown in a sterile environment, there is little chance of contamination. 

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has observed that “livestock farming accounts for 14.5 per cent of our global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the global transport sector.” Long back, one patty cost just over $300,000 to produce! The price of one patty is about $10 or even less now. A Harvard Business Review report says that food demand is expected to increase anywhere between 59 and 98 per cent by 2050. Now, this is food for thought. It might be time to give initiatives like lab-grown meat a chance.  

(The author takes refuge in food after a tiring
day with cars and gadgets.) 

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