The Future of Meat

In December 1931, Winston Churchill published an article in The Strand Magazine, called 50 years hence. In it he made a couple of predictions about the future. One of which was the following: “we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under suitable medium” that’s…. that’s my Churchill impression.

With this statement Churchill acknowledged the inefficiency of meat production, which eighty years hence is becoming an even bigger problem. To produce one kilogram of beef, it takes six and a half kilos of crops, 15,000 liters of water, and 550 days of time. Actually to scale it’s a bit more like this, 330 square meters of land emits over 16 kilos of CO2, and a half a kilo of methane which is a greenhouse gas so bad that it is equivalent to another 10 kilos of CO2, and that’s just for one kilo of beef. We live in the age of factory farming, and produce hundreds of billions of kilos of beef every year. Same goes for pork and chicken and every other animal you can buy in lunch sized pieces in restaurant, or market. In a nutshell no matter how much of a meat lover you are.

You have to accept that there is a range of problems here resource scarcity, environmental destruction, animal suffering, bacterial resistance due to the massive overuse of antibiotics and human health since animal fats as has been largely proven are responsible for a variety of diseases. I’m not telling you this to point fingers. It’s easy to complain about a problem. Offering a good solution is the hard part. What would a good solution be? Easy, we could simply all become vegetarians. Right, no that’s a crappy solution it’s like saying just stop driving cars everybody. We have to accept that many people just like meat. Well I really try my best to mostly eat vegetarian. I know that for many people this lifestyle is anywhere between I’m not sure I could do it, and you damned vegetarians are eating my foods food. Changing people is hard and never mind Western meat lovers go to China and try to order vegetarian in a restaurant.

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Good luck! In many increasingly wealthy societies meat is a luxury that the new middle class doesn’t want to do without. That’s the reason why in fact global meat consumption is on the rise, which makes all of these problems worse. How do we solve this? Welcome to the future! Over here all meat doesn’t come from animals. It comes from plants. I know what you’re thinking ah Then it’s not meat! Bear with me, there are actually two ways to do this. One is with meat analogues or substitutes. The other one is cultured or synthetic meat meat analogues are plant-based meat. Imitations usually soy protein isolates, or soy flour and gluten are used as the foundation of a dough which is then transformed by extrusion, or fiber spinning into something that closely resembles meat. This art of meat imitation has been perfected by the veggie industry. Meet “Impossible Food” a Californian company that produces the impossible burger made with a delicious solely plant-based meat analogue. Now maybe Jeremy Clarkson isn’t the biggest meat connoisseur out there, and you are not convinced. Good news we are also working on cultured meat. Cultured meat is actual meat, only that instead of growing it along with hair bones and skin, as is the traditional way. We are growing it separately in a controlled lab environment, as good old Winston imagined. In a simplified way, we start out with a few animal stem cells, which we then grow into full out muscle tissue, by providing all the proteins it needs, to eventually get us our steak. In fact theoretically the most perfect steak you’ve ever tasted, because we can control every aspect of it, from nutrition, to growth speed and even movement, by periodically stretching it in just the right way, and we only need to take the stem cells once, and from then on we can produce cultured meat indefinitely, with a fraction of the resources of traditional meat production, and pretty much none of the problems, for example in a perfect lab environment, there is no need for antibiotics, one of the biggest problems in factory farming today. Unfortunately cultured meat is not mass-market ready yet. Well there are certainly a few great companies working on it. We will still take a few more years until this can economically compete with that, for a contract with them, but it will, eventually. To some of you this might sound a bit creepy or unnatural, but if you think about it, so is factory farming, while also being much more cruel. Possibly we will one day look back on factory farming the same way we look back on slavery today. It’s an awful thing that we accept it, because we are used to it, and there’s a huge economy built around it, but as technology is providing us with better ways to do things, whichever way we go meat has to change [Music] Subtitles by the community

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