Would You Eat Lab-Grown Meat?
In June 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved two lab-grown meats for American sale. The move makes the United States only the second country to approve lab-grown meat for sale, following Singapore.
The poultry-like lab-grown meat is produced by California companies Upside Foods and Good Meat. “A lab-grown chicken nugget starts the classic way: with an egg. Food scientists sample stem cells from a fertilized chicken egg and then test the cells for resilience, taste, and the ability to divide and create more cells. Next the scientists can freeze the best cell lines for future use. When it’s time to start production, food scientists submerge the cells in a stainless steel vat of nutrient-rich broth containing all the ingredients cells need to grow and divide. After a few weeks, the cells begin to adhere to one another and produce enough protein to harvest. Finally, the scientists texturize the meat by mixing, heating or shearing it—GOOD Meat uses an extruder—and press it into nugget or cutlet shape,” summarizes journalist Joanna Thompson.
Many are excited about the potential environmental upsides of lab-grown meat. Journalist Max Graham explains, “growing meat in a lab doesn’t involve livestock or land for grazing and cuts out the greenhouse gas emissions associated with raising cows, chickens and pigs for food — 11% to 14.5% of global climate pollution. By some estimates, cultivated meat could reduce those emissions by 92%.”
There is concern, however, that lab-grown meat could increase greenhouse gas emissions, simply swapping “cow farts” (methane) for the carbon dioxide produced by the lab conditions necessary to grow the cells.
Meanwhile, many argue a vegetarian diet is actually the solution. Marco Springmann, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, says, “It’s very unlikely you can design a product that can be more environmentally friendly than legumes.” He asserts, “I’m very critical of cultured meat…. I think it’s a bad idea for health, for food security, and at the moment, also for the environment.”
1. Would you eat lab-grown meat? Why or why not?
2. Should people become vegetarians instead of eating meat at all? Why or why not?
3. What is the best solution to agriculture-based greenhouse gas emissions? Consider lab-grown meat, different farming methods, vegetarian/vegan alternatives, etc. Explain your answers.
Max Graham, “Lab-Grown Meat Is Now Approved for Sale in the US. Will It Help the Climate?,” salon.com, June 26, 2023
Nicola Jones, “Lab-Grown Meat: The Science of Turning Cells into Steaks and Nuggets,” nature.com, July 4, 2023
Joanna Thompson, “Lab-Grown Meat Approved for Sale: What You Need to Know,” scientificamerican.com, June 30, 2023