The Promise and Peril of Artificial Meat
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Lab-grown meat, known also as cultured, cell-based meat, or “clean” meat, is a new and rapidly emerging technology that offers the potential to revolutionize the food and agriculture industry. While there are risks that need to be managed, lab-grown meat has incredible implications and potential benefits for civilization’s long-term sustainability.
What is Lab-Grown Meat?
While plant protein meat alternatives have grabbed headlines in the last few years, advances in lab-grown meat have been just as dramatic. Plant-protein meat alternatives use a variety of plant products to mimic the taste and texture of common cuts of meat. Lab-grown meat, on the other hand, hopes to literally grow or “culture” meat cells in bioreactors, without the need for birthing, raising, and slaughtering animals.
In my humble (and often wrong) opinion, I see the plant-protein alternatives as a technological dead end. On a high level, there is something farcical about devising a concoction that simulates the texture and taste of meat, but without any actual meat. I cannot speak to the environmental benefits, but from a health perspective, these plant-derived alternatives are engineered foods, more akin to simulated food. Presumably, it’s far healthier to consume the plants themselves directly.
As I discussed here, artificial “food” is only as good as our understanding of nutrition. Historically, many “healthy alternatives” to more natural products have later revealed themselves to be more harmful than the product it was replacing. I suspect that at some point in the coming decades, plant-protein concoctions will reveal themselves in a similar manner. Though, I could very well be wrong about this.
It may seem odd that I am defending “lab-grown” meat over plant protein, but lab-grown meat is still meat, albeit produced in a bioreactor instead of an animal…