Is lab-grown meat a game-changer for the meat industry?

Until now, most of us would have been aware or at least heard about meat being grown in labs to reduce the ecological effects of the meat industry on our environment. If not, then let me tell you what it’s all about. Lab-grown meat or cultivated meat as it is called is produced by taking stem cells of an animal and mixing it with carbohydrates, amino acids, etc., and allowing the stem cells to multiply, and voilà! You get a chunk of carefully engineered muscle which can be turned into your favorite hamburger patty, sausage, salami, or can be eaten as a steak. There is also a vegan version called Plant-based meat. It uses components from plants instead and creates a version of beef, pork, chicken, fish, and more, which tastes like an actual piece of meat.

Producing meat on farms puts a lot of pressure on the ecosystem; excess waste, insensible water usage, methane emissions from cattle, tons of resources needed for feeding, overgrazing, and carbon dioxide emissions that arise from transportation. Our forests are being diminished to expand cattle farms. The feed of cattle requires a variety of crops to fatten up the animal so that we could have that juicy bit of meat, and growing these crops again brings us back to deforestation. The carcass or remains are disposed of in the rivers, oceans, lakes and polluting them further. Furthermore, animals are reared endlessly to meet the needs of the ever-growing human population. The sad reality is that even though it’s the 21st century and despite being growing concerns, there is very little change in the situation.

In India, there is a growing trend of Soya Chaap, a soya plant-based product that is said to have a chicken-like taste if cooked like meat. It is still an upcoming trend that is spreading all over India. For a country that consists of a majority of people with a vegetarian diet, it can be a great option other than cottage cheese (paneer). Beef and pork are not consumed in the country as it goes against the religious beliefs of the people. Even though there is a small minority of people who consume beef, and it’s usually buffalo meat instead of cow, as cows are sacred to the Hindus. Despite all, there is a growing market for poultry, red meat (mutton/goat/sheep meat), and fish. However, laws regarding this whole issue in India are still unclear.

Plant-based meat or lab-grown meat is undoubtedly a great innovation. Turning into a vegetarian realistically may not completely solve the problem of pollution, as pollution based on the meat industry is one of the contributing factors of environmental pollution, not the root cause of it, but it will help to contribute to the reduction of the problem drastically.

So, does that mean we should stop consuming meat and turn vegetarian? We won’t say that, though there is no harm in doing it. With growing health concerns, one can add more plant-based products to balance their diets. There is a need for more awareness among the people, so they know what they are eating, where it comes from, and how it is produced. Only that way can people begin taking more environmentally aware decisions.


Aditi Pandit