Study Finds Fake Meat Comes With a Disturbing Side Effect

( – While there’s considerable public debate regarding the severity and causes of climate change, there’s little doubt that moving toward sustainable energy and food sources is a good thing. After all, it never hurts to do one’s part to protect and preserve the environment for future generations. However, sometimes the best-laid plans result in horrific damage. A new study regarding the environmental impact of creating fake meat serves as a perfect case in point.

Cultured Meat Production

National security and technology expert Jason Matheny is recognized for popularizing the production of cultured (or fake) meat after he co-authored a paper on in vitro-cultured meat production in May 2005. Based on tissue engineering techniques developed by regenerative medicine researchers, the production method is relatively straightforward, if not a bit complicated.

Scientists engineered induced pluripotent stem cells to begin the production process. Once they establish those cells, they immerse them in a culture medium to induce them to reproduce. Those cultures provide the stem cells with the necessary proteins, fats, salts, and carbohydrates necessary for growth.

Those cultures develop into muscle tissue. That material is organized into a three-dimensional structure to help it grow into an edible substance that resembles naturally produced meats like beef, pork, and chicken.

Theoretically, cultured meat can offset animal husbandry’s environmental impact and eliminate the need to develop food sources and animal cruelty. However, several studies have indicated that producing that fake meat has a disturbing side effect.

Studies Indicate Cultured Meat Could Create More Environmental Harm Than Livestock

In 2019, a research study conducted by Oxford University’s Livestock, Environment, and People (LEAP) program found that “over the long term,” producing cultured meat required “large energy inputs that could increase global warming” more than many types of traditional cattle farming.

The study showed that replacing conventional cattle farming with cultured meat could increase CO2 emissions. Some advocates of the newer technology suggested that the lack of methane production by labs offset the resulting environmental damage. However, the LEAP program pointed out that although methane caused more immediate harm than carbon dioxide, it only lingers in the atmosphere for about 12 years, whereas CO2 “persists and accumulates for millennia.”

The LEAP study bolstered the findings of a life cycle assessment of meat substitutes. He found that the carbon footprint created by laboratory-produced meats was roughly five times that of livestock and 10 times that of plant-based substitutes.

On April 21, 2023, a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, confirmed that cultured meat labs produced even more CO2 than previously shown. It found that CO2 emissions for lab-produced substitutes could emit as much as 25 times the carbon dioxide released by conventional livestock operations.

That study hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet but indicates the need for increased research before companies start producing cultured meat in earnest.

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