Amazing things ... couple of decades ago, back when I was working at a P.R. agency specializing in food industry accounts, one of the things that I kept talking about was a future where we would “grow” beef, etc., envisioning huge vats, like in a brewery, pulsing with ever-expanding Angus roasts. As you probably noticed, there was a news story in the past week about a hamburger that had been grown from stem cells … while this is not exactly where the technology needs to be, at least the concept is being worked on. I just ran across a piece from Dashburst, “The Test-Tube Burger, 3D Printed Meals and 4 Other Foods that May Change the World” which not only covered this, but several other related things.

Frankly, I suspect that the methods used to grow the tissues necessary to produce that $325,000.00 burger – an in-vitro method utilizing stem cells to develop tiny strips of muscle fiber – is unlikely to allow for mass production (and, of course, I have opinions on alternatives), but the prospect of growing animal protein in tanks is appealing on a lot of levels. As the article notes elsewhere, there are 300 million cattle and 1.4 billion pigs slaughtered every year (let alone the billions of chickens), and moving to a system that did not involve that level of killing would be a Good Thing … plus, of course, the vast amounts of land and resources needed to bring those animals to market, and the environmental impact of the meat industry in general.

In a report, cited by the NY Times article linked to in the Dashburst piece, it says:

The results showed that production of 1000 kg cultured meat requires 26–33 GJ energy, 367–521 m3 water, 190–230 m2 land, and emits 1900–2240 kg CO2-eq GHG emissions. In comparison to conventionally produced European meat, cultured meat involves approximately 7–45% lower energy use (only poultry has lower energy use), 78–96% lower GHG emissions, 99% lower land use, and 82–96% lower water use depending on the product compared. Despite high uncertainty, it is concluded that the overall environmental impacts of cultured meat production are substantially lower than those of conventionally produced meat.

Needless to say, those numbers are pretty convincing … if just for the near total removal of the land and water requirements vs. current methods!

Aside from the hamburger story, the piece also looked at aeroponics, 3D printing of food, a couple of efforts being made to convert the U.S.A. into an insectivorous culture (at least to a minor extent), and a look at the positive side of genetically modified crops. Interesting stuff … figured I’d pass it along.

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