Lab-grown steak could be worse for climate than flatulent cattle - scientists
Scientists and companies working to grow meat from animal cells will need to minimise energy use and avoid fossil fuels if claims that cultured meat is better for the climate than real meat are to hold true, researchers said.
Cultured meat production with high energy inputs could spur global warming more in the long-term than some types of beef cattle farming if the world shunned a low-carbon path, said a study published on Tuesday by the UK-based Oxford Martin School.
Lead author John Lynch, a researcher at the University of Oxford, said reducing beef consumption would help curb climate change, as methane emitted by cattle is a potent heat-trapping gas. But how best to replace conventional meat remained unclear.
“We have to dig into the details a bit more to know if the substitutes would be as beneficial as claimed,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It just comes down to how much energy demand would be to produce a kilogramme of meat.”
Lynch said companies promising to bring lab-grown “clean” meat to the mass market, many of them based in the United States and Israel, had yet to release information on their planned large-scale production processes.
The website of one high-profile firm, Memphis Meats, which produced the world’s first cell-based meatball in 2016 followed by poultry in 2017, says its meat, cultivated “at scale”, would use significantly less land, water, energy and food inputs.
“Our process will produce less waste and dramatically fewer greenhouse gas emissions. We believe that the planet will be the ultimate beneficiary of our product,” it adds, without giving details of how that would be achieved.
Memphis Meats has received investment from business tycoons Bill Gates and Richard Branson, as well as multinational corporations Cargill and Tyson Foods.