This month has just scratched the surface of what it means to literally "eat this planet", there are a ton of more issues and topics that I would like to discusses but as per the rhythm of this blog we are closing this chapter for now. We have briefly discussed the really interesting new and innovative technologies coming out from around the world trying to make protein more sustainable through plant-based building blocks. We have touched on the carbon footprint of our grocery cart and how buying more locally can decrease how much emissions we produce by eating food. Last week I discussed the interesting world of soy, and some of the misconceptions as well as the fun booster-shots that meat farmers give their livestock. This week I would like to briefly talk about a really interesting protein topic: "clean meat".
Clean meats are actual animal meats that are grown in a lab from a very small numbers of cells. Scientists take these few cells, feed them, grow them, and then "bada-boom-bada-bing" you got clean meat! This is also called cultured meat. After being raised in the lab scientists take the meats out for dinner, a few symphony and opera shows, maybe a little hip-hop, and then try to sell it consumers. There are three main areas of clean meat that I would like to focus on: environmental impact, shifting meat culture, and food additives.
Firstly, as I discussed in an earlier article our current rate of meat consumption produces a heck of a lot of emissions and is harming our environment at a really rapid speed. Having a stable, sustainable, and reliable source of high protein foods is serious business. Humans absolutely need a good level of protein in our diets to sustain life and for those of us that train physically the need is even more. Often, people use this as an excuse to not look at meat protein alternatives and stick to what they know and their regular eating routine. But there are better protein options that are going to be offered to consumers very soon! Compared to "traditional" agriculture meat, cultured or clean meat produces a fraction of the green house gas emissions, uses far less land, and consumes far less water. However, not everything is perfect. Cultured and clean meats do use up a lot of energy to be produced. With the innovations in energy creation technology really rolling full tilt. this will not be a worry for long! With any new product or service that will cause social mind shifts there is always going to be a bit of a slow take up. (Source: The Environmental Impacts of Cultured Meat)
In the North American and Western cultures we have a really skewed meat culture and it mostly focused on "more is better". Hardly ever is more better. A large barrier in the cultural shift to clean meat or meat alternatives is the actual branding and wording of the marketing on packages. Consumers had negative notions to packaging that had the phrase man-made-meat or had the world "fake" on the packaging. If the packaging had either "meat alternative" or "vegetarian meat" consumers showed a positive correlation to the packing and were more inclined to purchase the product. Marketing plays a huge roll in how consumers perceive the products they buy or do not buy. If clean meat companies really want to make an impact on societies consumption level of traditionally grown meat and shift it towards lab grown meat there is going to have to be some serious ground work laid first. I fully support the idea of lab grown meat but I think the hardest part for produces is going to be to try and change people's buying habits. That shit ain't easy! (Meet meat: An explorative study on meat and cultured meat as seen by Chinese, Ethiopians and Dutch)
One solid way that clean meat companies could influence their consumers perceptions around clean meats is through education around traditional meat additives. Due to the fact that clean mat is not "grown" in the regular sense and that all that is being produced is meat then their is not real need for any additives like hormones, antibiotics, and antimicrobials. This is a real big game changer because instead of eating a product that has essentially been vaccinated and super pumped full of additives consumers are eating, for the most, part strict meat. Research has shown that once consumers were made aware of the additives in their meat they grew less inclined to consume it and were more inclined to the alternative. If clean meat companies used this tactic as a major marketing tool there would be a mass migration of consumers. Usually informed consumers make not only better self choices but better societal choices. (Source: Importance of perceived naturalness for acceptance of food additives and cultured meat)
Creating a meat alternative that can be produced at a fraction of the environemntal impact of traditional meats sounds like a dream to me. I would most certainly try these clean meats and give them a run for their money. Once the meat market understands the potential and impact that clean meat will have on their industry there will be a huge shift. This will be caused not only by consumer demand but also from producer willingness to produce a more desirable product. I for one think this is a really cool innovation in food science and can not wait to see what happens next.
Thank you for reading, and don't forget to subscribe!