Scientists might have developed a solution that is close to a magic wand for many of the problems we are currently facing as a species. Ethical treatment of animals, world hunger, antibiotic resistance, and water scarcity might soon become a thing of the past thanks to a project called SuperMeat.
SuperMeat, an Israeli-based startup, uses a new culturing method that allows chicken meat to be grown in a laboratory, which perfectly mimics the natural process without actually hurting any animals. The method was developed by Professor Yaakov Nahmias, a biochemical engineer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Apart from the obvious benefit for the animals themselves, this lab-grown meat promises to have less impact on the environment, with 99 percent less land and 96 percent less water usage, as well as up to 96 percent less greenhouse gas emissions.
SuperMeat also promises that the meat is healthier. Being grown under supervised conditions, the meat can be grown with reduced or zero fat content and doesn’t require any antibiotics, which is very important in our fight against bacterial resistance.
Infographic showing how SuperMeat is grown. SuperMeat
The main selling point though is the ability to move production from big farms to shops, restaurants, and even households, which means this could be used by people in the poorest regions of the world.
“Our technology is unique as it allows for local production or distributed manufacturing. We can place our meat-generating machines in local supermarkets, in restaurants, and even at your own home,” said Professor Nahmias in a video on the crowdfunding page.
His method requires taking a small tissue sample from a living chicken. The cells are then grown in a special nutrient soup and put in the SuperMeat machine, where they grow into actual meat.
Obviously, whenever there’s something that sounds this good, there’s a catch. This technology is at a very early stage, and although the crowdfunding has been successful ($123,000) so far, according to SuperMeat they will need at least $500,000 to make a proof of concept of the meat-growing machine and five times as much to construct a cost-efficient prototype. We won't be feasting on SuperMeat any time soon, then.
Although it might not sound appetizing to most, lab-grown meat may be the best way to reduce animal consumption while being realistic about the eating habits of people around the world.