Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Cultured Meat: Economic and Environmental Implications

There are many reasons for supporting a decline in human meat consumption. Included, is the need to reduce the production of greenhouse gases produced by animals, reduce water consumption, and the morally questionable killing of animals. Efforts have been underway to produce plant-based meat substitutes with mixed success. Of greater significance is the development of cultured meat. This source is derived from the use of cells extracted from animals. The specimens are treated in a lab and grown into meat that is biologically indistinguishable from the donor animal. The slaughtering of animals is completely eliminated. Similarly, the same process can be used to produce dairy products; cows not needed.

A number of ramifications are to be anticipated assuming that animals will no longer be required as a food source. The economic impact on animal farmers would be severe as their livelihood and that of employed workers would be substantially eliminated. A huge amount of land will no longer be required for grazing and the harvesting of animal feed. Then there is the problem of what to do with the millions of cows, hogs, chickens, and sheep. Ideally, the transition to animal-free food production will be gradual allowing for a natural die-off of existing herds. The slaughtering industry will be largely eliminated. Slaughterhouses will be replaced by labs. The need for butchers will decline, but the need for lab personnel will increase. There would be a need to preserve some of the animal stock in order to prevent the extinction of species. The transportation of animals will be impacted as the movement of cultured meat is far less demanding as is the transportation of livestock.