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Image: Aurich Lawson/Ars Technica

Image: Aurich Lawson/Ars Technica

A steak grown in a petri dish?

It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie (or Space Cases – which my sisters and I loved!).

But the reality of a slaughter-less meat is closer than we think…

Just last week – on August 5, 2013 –  the world’s first lab-grown burger was cooked up and eaten in London.

There was a lot of hoopla in the press about it, with hundreds of media outlets covering the story.

Several friends asked me – what did I, as a vegan, think of all this?

You might be surprised by my opinion…and whether or not I’d eat it!

I am in favor of lab-grown meat – or, I should say, the lab-grown meat of the future.

It could take another 10-20 years for it to become commercially available. Safety-wise, it obviously needs to be thoroughly proved, and cost-wise, it needs to come down from $330,000 (it’s so high right now because of research & development).

Also, lab-grown meat is currently cultured in a soup of fetal calf serum (blech!) and the burger eaten in London was made with egg powder, so animals products were still used.

But, I think it’s a promising option for the future for three main reasons:

1. Animals

Around 60 billion animals (60,000,000,000) are killed for food each year around the globe.

Pigs in gestation crates in a factory farm

Pigs in gestation crates in a factory farm

The vast majority of those animals are produced on factory farms, where they are mutilated in various and horrible ways, cruelly confined, and basically suffer every moment of their lives.

This is unacceptable.

Lab-grown meat would reduce suffering greatly. In fact, according to this report, one biopsy of a live cow could result in 20,000 pounds of cultured meat.

I see it as a huge step in the right direction to end the intense suffering of tens of billions.

2. The Environment

Lab-grown meat would be a much more preferable alternative to the highly destructive animal agriculture industry as it is now.

(Read all about the environmental problems with meat and animal products in my post Go Green for St. Patty’s Day.)

Lab-grown meat would use 99% less land, 96% less water, 45% less energy, and produce 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional meat, according to this study by the University of Oxford.

Needless to say, it would have a huge and positive impact on our planet, which needs all the help it can get!

3. Our Growing Population and Demand for Meat

972331_10153079879680632_1498586904_nRecently, a researcher at the University of Minnesota found in her study that by dramatically reducing animal consumption, we could free up enough food for another four billion people.

That could be critical for a rapidly growing human population.

Hans Rosling, a world-famous professor of global health and a data wiz, projects that the world’s population will balloon up to 10 billion (and hopefully stabilize there, if we can defeat poverty).

Here’s a fascinating video in which Dr. Rosling shows how population growth to that number is inevitable (the very relevant part starts at 10:50, but the entire thing is worth watching):

Global demand for meat is rising (despite a 12.2% decrease in meat consumption in the US in the last five years), and with an imminent population of 10 billion people, the environmental degradation could be monstrous if we stick with our current factory farming system to meet that demand.

Obviously, an answer to this problem, as the study above suggests, is for us to drastically reduce our animal product consumption, which is something we can all do individually. Go us!

At the same time, I don’t think it’s realistic to hope that everyone in the world will realize this and go vegetarian or vegan overnight (or even in the next several decades).

Because of this, lab-grown meat is an exciting possible alternative to factory farming.

So, to sum up: Yes, I am in favor of bringing lab-grown meat to market…but would I eat it?

No. It just grosses me out. I don’t find it appetizing.

But billions of others (and growing) do find it appetizing, and if eating meat, it’s better to come from a lab than from a factory farm.

But let’s not forget that we’re all empowered right now. None of us have to wait ’til lab-grown meat is on the market to make a difference for animals, the environment, or world hunger.

We can help resolve all of these problems easily – TODAY – by eating fewer animal products!

Start with Meatless Monday or go straight to vegetarian or vegan! It’s delicious, fun, and healthy, and I think you’ll love it as much as I do (see my top reasons I ♥ being vegan 10 here!).

So, let’s all decide to do what we can, right now, and skip the hamburger tonight in favor of a bounty of tasty vegan food!

To doing something TODAY!