Those concerned with animal welfare will often make the decision to become vegetarians. By choosing a plant-based diet, they are voting against the practices employed in modern agriculture that subject animals to treatment they consider cruel, unhealthy, and damaging to the environment.
“Many people become vegan or vegetarian because they detest the way animals are treated, slaughtered, and pumped with antibiotics,” explains Rahim Rajwani, Co-Founder of Atelier Meats. “They turn to a meatless diet not because they don’t like meat, but because they don’t like the process that produces it. In those cases, lab-grown meat can fill the gap for them.”
Atelier Meats is a biotech company using proprietary technology to develop lab-grown meats. Sometimes known as cultured or cultivated meat, lab-grown meat is developed through an efficient process without negative impacts on animal welfare. In fact, it does not even require that animals be slaughtered.
“No animal will ever be killed in anything we do,” Rajwani says. “Our patent-pending technology uses DNA from animals without causing them harm.”
Lab-grown meat is not plant-based protein. When used to make patties, for example, lab-grown meat does not result in veggie-patties or plant-based burgers. Lab-grown meat is actual meat that is cultivated in a laboratory setting by using cells harvested from living animals. The process that produces it is sometimes referred to as cellular agriculture.
“If you’re growing steak in a lab, the meat comes from actual cow DNA,” explains Rajwani. “The DNA is processed, prepped, and deposited into a bioreactor where the meat is grown, whereas with plant-based ‘meat,’ there is never an animal, DNA, or other process involving an animal.”
Until recently, lab-grown meat was used to prepare “unstructured” products such as meatballs or chicken nuggets that did not resemble a cut of meat. The latest technology, such as that being utilized by Atelier Meats, allows for growing “structured” meats that have the form and texture of a steak, pork chop, or chicken breast.
Many who have faced health issues such as heart disease or diabetes have turned away from meat-based diets because of the high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol often found in meat. Lab-grown meats promise to provide a healthier alternative to conventional meat by allowing food scientists to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol. Ultimately, they could provide a product that matches conventional meat in taste and texture while dealing with many of the health concerns associated with eating meat.
While imitation meat products made from plant-based protein may offer an alternative that is healthier than traditional meat, they can present a different type of health concern because of other ingredients added to produce the taste or texture of meat.
“One of the things you’ll find when looking at fake meat products is a high amount of sodium. It’s usually number one or two on the list of ingredients,” explains Rajwani. “While the original pitch for these products was that they are much healthier for you, in reality the plant-based material is certainly healthier for some people, but the other ingredients that are used to create the flavor or texture certainly aren’t.”
With lab-grown meat, the taste and texture are there naturally; no other ingredients are needed.
Lab-grown meats also do away with the concerns about antibiotics that have come to be associated with meat produced through a highly mechanized process known as “factory farming.” To allow for meat to be produced more efficiently, factory farms crowd animals into environments where bacteria thrive, then give them antibiotics to stave off infections. This practice, which is not necessary with lab-grown meats, has been found to present significant health concerns.
Environmental concerns are another factor often cited by vegetarians as a reason for adopting a plant-based diet. Clearing land to provide farms for raising beef has been shown to be responsible for forty-one percent of deforestation worldwide. Cattle are also a significant source of greenhouse gases, and the natural resources that are needed for raising animals are considerable. Overall, the processes used to produce conventional meats are not considered kind to the environment.
With lab-grown meat, none of those factors come into play. Less land is needed. Less natural resources are needed. Deforestation is not necessary.
Compared with conventionally produced meat, it is easy to see why lab-grown meat is commonly referred to as “clean meat.” It comes from a cleaner environment, results in a cleaner planet, and promises a cleaner bill of health to those who consume it. For those who have turned to plant-based diets, lab-grown meat may present a good reason to reconsider.