Essay: Providing protein in the future

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  • Subject area(s): Environmental studies essays
  • Reading time: 6 minutes
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  • Published on: January 22, 2019
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Human population is predicted to be 9.5 billion by 2060 (Jacobsen, 2017), which is an increase of 34% in world’s population (Carter, 2010). Not only does it lead to global crisis of natural resources, but also food sources. There won’t be enough spaces for farming, therefore it is impossible to produce enough meat to satisfy the demand of it. Meat is one of the most highly consumed product on the planet. Due to this fact, the demand for meat will increase significantly. In Europe, the number is expected to rise by 7%, followed up by US with 8%, while in Asia the number is predicted to be 56% (Jacobsen, 2017). Thus, artificial meat, in addition it is known as in vitro meat was suggested as a solution to the problem. It is cultured from muscle-specific stem cell from animals. This essay will argue that in vitro meat is not a solution to the meat demand due to the world’s overpopulation, mainly because of its impression to humans and it is not possible for the large-scale production yet. In addition, the moral factors of animal welfare and cannibalism should be also mentioned as reasons why, cultured meat is not the most viable solution.
Firstly, consumers reaction and the public perception is very important to define the acceptance of the technology and success of cultured meat development, as a product in the future (Grunert et al., 2011, cited in Verbeke et al., 2015). Therefore, there are few studies that have been conducted to determine the possible reactions of consumers. It was expected that the conception will be wildly accepted, but it was opposite. The result of an online survey that was done in the United States in 2016 reported that the attitude of the public to in vitro meat is mixed. While the majority answered that they are willing to try artificial meat, but they are concerned about consuming it regularly (Wilks & Phillips, 2017). The research’s survey took place in Belgium, Portugal and the United Kingdom, by showing the video of in vitro meat production, noted that most of people expressed their disgust and fear toward the artificial meat (Verbeke et al., 2015). Meanwhile, (Mcilroy 2006; Peterson 2006; Hopkins and Dacey 2008, cited in Bhat et al. 2015) expressed that a significant number of people are against the conception of in vitro meat, as it may lead to cannibalism, because human muscle tissue may be cultured by using the same technique. Thus, it is visible that the general view of cultured meat is negative.

However, there are benefits that should be mentioned of artificial meat. Thanks to artificial meat, not only will it be possible to regulate the ratios of fat, also it will be possible to choose healthy types of fat (Jacobsen, 2017). But sadly, it may only apply to minced meat, as producing in vitro hamburgers is relatively easier than steak (Hocquette, 2016). Despite the benefits of cultured meat, unnaturalness, taste and price were the main factors that affected their choice. Almost similar to the survey in America, which was mentioned before, the result of a research in Europe showed that “future consumers” have the same thought regarding the in vitro meat lack of naturalness (Verbeke et al., 2015). Not only do they think that in vitro meat is unnatural, but also, they are worried about the possible harm that consuming it for a long period of time may cause. As the consequence of disgust, due to its unnaturalness, most participants signified that they prefer traditional meat over cultured one. The fact that it is artificial discourage consumers’ interest to try it.

Secondly, producing cultured meat has not been able to be produced in a large-scale and it is lack of nutrition (Datar & Betti, 2010). It is due to the fact that in vitro meat is produced by replicating the stem cells of animals. But the problem is that stem cells can not be replicated easily without using growth hormones (Carter, 2011). Not only does it make the cells replicate faster, but also makes the production less expensive. However, growth hormone may have the negative effects on human health, like chronic kidney diseases, early puberty in girls. Furthermore, it also increases the risk of cancer (Jenkins, 2005). In addition, there is a possibility of developing cancerous cells and may present in a large amount, as a result of high number of proliferations, which were used for stem cells multiplication (Hocquette, 2016). Even though, these cancerous cells might be harmless, as they are dead by the time the meat will be consumed. Furthermore, they are going to be digested in the stomach, so there is a small chance of them being absorbed in the body alive. Also cultured meat does not have that much nutrition like convenient meat, as it need to be stimulated with different machines to be exercised for getting strong proteins. These facts still remain as the reasons why, cultured meat is unlikely going to be commercialised in the future.

Consuming and producing in vitro meat might be better for the environment. To produce 1 tons of in vitro meat, it takes up to 45% less energy, about 90% of water, less land compared to traditional method of raising animals. But on the other hand, a study in America shows that the amount of heat and electricity used to produce artificial meat in a large scale can be massive (Jacobsen, 2017). For example, every sample of the in vitro meat require exercises to form strong proteins (Carter, 2011). As a result, the producing cost will increase, and also affect the problem of limited resources. Meanwhile, the nutrients and growth hormones are necessary for producing in vitro meat in a huge quantity, most of these compounds will be made by chemical companies, and thus the waste of it is likely to pollute the environment (Hocquette, 2016). Therefore, producing in vitro meat does not mean that it will prevent environmental pollution, but may even make it worse.

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