Ollie Cohen, 22nd April 2022

Earth Day 2022: Why we need the new natural to curb our global appetite for meat

Global meat consumption is at an all-time high. Since 1990, the amount of meat we eat has more than doubled. Despite vegetarianism, veganism and flexitarianism – eating less meat – becoming more popular than ever in recent years, clearly meat remains king.

Demand is rocketing but the way that we eat and produce meat is posing an unprecedented challenge to our planet. The population is growing, and the average person in the West consumes 1000 animals in their lifetime. Animals need space to roam and graze but as available land dwindles in favour of human habitats, farmers are being pushed into suboptimal methods for producing their meat. Excessive antibiotics are used to accelerate animals’ growth, and overcrowded living environments for animals increase the risk of mutating diseases that pass from animals to humans, such as Covid 19.

There is also a growing environmental impact. Industrial meat production is the single biggest contributor to global deforestation and now accounts for almost 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions from all food production. It can take up to 20,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of meat. These are worrying statistics.  Perhaps the solution would be to stop eating meat altogether? Many of us have begun to do so – the latest count found 5% of the US population were vegetarians – but what about the other 95%?  

It is clear that the vast majority still enjoy the taste of meat but must now find an alternative that is better for us and better for the planet. The good news is the number of alternatives is growing. Plant-based meat can provide easy substitutions that might have positive health benefits by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Insect protein is another proposed solution to the environmental impact of industrial meat production.

Yet, these are alternatives – a different experience from the sensations and experiences of eating meat itself. These alternatives will struggle to crack the meat-faithful consumer group who do not plan to reduce meat consumption (20-30% of the EU population), a challenge reflected in the slowing of interest from investors in plant-based meat substitutes.

So, what if it was possible to eat meat and reduce our impact on the planet?

We believe that the answer lies in cultured meat. Cultured meat is real meat: it is the process of growing animal tissue from small samples of cells taken from living cows, pigs, sheep and poultry. It eliminates the need for industrial farming and slaughter and replaces it with a system that would save more than 70 billion animal lives per year if we all switched to the pioneering method. 

Cultured meat minimises environmental impacts, since it requires far less land, water and energy to produce than industrial meat farming. A recent study found that cultured meat can reduce the carbon footprint of conventional beef by 92% and the land-use footprint by 95%. A 2020 Nature Food paper found that the production of cultured meat could take place without antibiotic use, potentially stalling the growth of antibiotic resistance. This change isn’t far away – expected costs for consumers are due to reach parity with conventional meat by 2030, driving uptake

But is it all a cell-based dream, rather than a supermarket shelf reality? Perhaps it seemed so, since the first entirely cultured hamburger was produced in 2013 and subsequent developments have been slow to announce.  

That was until the past few years. Now, cultured meat companies are blossoming, leading to the Good Food Institute labelling 2021 a “record year” for investment into alternative proteins, with $1.4bn invested into cultured meat and seafood companies. We are not saying that we are the ultimate silver bullet to solve climate change, but we do believe that if we want to curb the environmental impact of our growing appetite for meat, we can’t dismiss the solution of cultured meat.

Cultured meat can provide a much needed system change and culture shift for the meat industry. Our vision isn’t to replace all conventional meat. It’s to create a world where the industrial meat value chain is diversified into a more sustainable and balanced food system. Where consumers have a choice of responsible meat options, from sustainably farmed meat, insect-based and plant-based meat alternatives and of course cultured meat.   

In 2024, our own company Meatable plans to launch our first product, pioneering this new era of delicious, cultured meat. It has never been a better time to participate in the future of our Earth, through the technology of cultured meat production.

Ultimately, without companies such as our own producing the familiar taste of meat at a benefit to the planet, we cannot continue to enjoy the foods that we love sustainably. A change must happen, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one – in fact, it is just the new natural we’re creating right now.






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