What’s For Dinner, Dr Jekyll?

It’s no secret that our global population is growing every day. The science world is always looking for ways to improve and increase how much food is produced. But where is this going to lead us? How many more times can we modify a wheat cultivar to increase yield? Will food waste strategies actually be implemented? To solve our food shortage problem, we have to look beyond the “traditional” science of agriculture improvement. Let’s get a little creative, shall we?

Food science is looking in a new direction to feed the growing population. Ever thought about eating meat grown in a petri dish? Cultured meat is meat grown from “the cell up”, meaning a stem cell is taken from a meat animal and grown into a specific cut of meat. Rather than slaughtering a whole chicken for only a few select cuts of meat, now just the chicken breast can be grown without the rest of the animal. At first glance, it seems like the problem of food waste has been solved!

Of course, with every new type of food science comes a lot of questions. Cultured meat seems too good to be true – what’s the catch here? To start, the science is still very new. This means it’s still very expensive. One of the leaders in producing cultured meat is a donation-run charity, New Harvest, which means that their funding is limited. As well, cultured meat is not yet available for commercial sale. Since it’s a product of a lab, cultured meat has to go through a lot of tests and trials until it can be sold to the public.

We also don’t know the true environmental costs of this lab-produced meat. Since it’s such a new technology, the long term impacts on the planet aren’t yet known. Will it be better for the planet than conventional farming? Could petri-dish meat actually replace raised livestock? It may help alleviate some of the pressure with our shrinking farmland and growing population, but it will probably never replace livestock raised by a human.

The new science of cultured meat is still on the fringe, but it may be something to look out for in the next 50 years. Keep an eye out in the grocery store for cultured meat. It may become your staple dinner!

Emma — The Suburban Aggie

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