Cultured meat is a worldwide project that addresses many issues including environmental issues, animal rights, sustainability, public health and science.
In March 2014, a nonprofit organization named The Modern Agriculture Foundation was founded In Israel. Our aim is simple: to expedite the arrival of cultured meat as a commercially available product. We are hoping this will prove a major step towards replacing today's industrial meat production, all over the globe.
In order to reach this goal, we approach the issue from several different angles:
- Accompanying students during their studies, guiding and providing them with the information they need to join cultured meat research.
- Giving lectures in academic and other educational institutions and thus creating a support basis.
- Connecting and coordinating relevant research bodies.
- Lobbying for and promoting government support for relevant research.
- Raising awareness among the general public about the benefits of cultured meat.
- Creating and promoting local and global research conductive to cultured meat, by supporting and sponsoring relevant research labs.
It is our sincere belief that anyone who cares about at least one of the aforementioned issues should support cultured meat, and we will try and elaborate on four of the main aspects: public health, animal rights, the environment and human population growth and consumption.
The public health perspective
Cultured meat has the potential to benefit public health in various areas, such as bacterial resistance, production of reduced fat or nonfat meat, increased general hygiene in meat production, and the prevention of pandemics.
We would like to focus on one crucial aspect that affects every single human being across the globe: pandemics caused by viruses, such as Influenza virus A. It is common knowledge within the scientific community that the evolution of Influenza viruses (caused mainly by antigenic shift but also by antigenic drift) can cause a pandemic. When different strains of Influenza viruses come in contact with each other, they can create a new virus which has undergone a mixture (reassortment), and as such becomes a possible pandemic hazard.
How might this happen? The following are all possible causes:
- A unhygienic environment.
- A high density environment of animals (birds or mammals).
- Direct/indirect contact between humans and animals.
Influenza virus A is the most pathogenic virus of its family. While other Influenza viruses infect mainly human beings, Influenza virus A infects birds and other mammals as well. As you can see in the opposite infographic, this means that the virus has a significantly high potential of evolving into a new, more effective virus, capable of causing an epidemic.
History shows us that this has already happened far too many times, and unless drastic changes are made in our agricultural practices, it is bound to happen again.
Many pandemics were caused by antigenic drift/shift of Influenza virus A, such as the Russian flu, the Asian flu, swine flu, bird flu, the Hong Kong flu, the Spanish flu and more.
Although it would be wrong to blame all of these epidemics on the conventional meat industry alone, we do have to take into account the following facts:
- The Human population is increasing exponentially.
- The Demand for meat is increasing globally.
- 80% of the world’s population lives in developing countries, and as time progresses these countries become more and more developed.
- Globalization and technological advancements throughout the world have increased mobility of people around the globe.
These facts together with our knowledge of what causes pandemics, makes it clear that the risk of a new, deadly pandemic is very high. Moreover, the frequency of epidemics will rise with time.
Something must be done to prevent such a frightening scenario. We have to reconfigure the way humanity manages its agriculture. Cultured meat provides a viable solution, on two counts:
- Cultured meat will be manufactured in a significantly more hygienic environment than traditional meat.
- It will not entail the use of live animals.
The animal rights perspective
Conventional animal agriculture violates animals' most basic rights in numerous ways, which are inherent to traditional meat production practices and include but are not limited to confinement, fattening, mutilation, genetic manipulation, forced fertilization, slaughter.
Generally speaking, the concept of animal rights refers to two basic rights: the right to live, and the right to freedom. Both these rights cannot be fulfilled while meat production continues using the traditional methods. Population growth, a worldwide increasing demand for meat, and our very limited natural resources, all mean animal agriculture must necessarily take the shape of huge industrial operations, where animals are bred and killed in a fast paced cycle, and live their lives in abysmal conditions (crowded enclosures, fattening procedures, etc.).
According to Anonymous for Animal Rights (an animal rights organization in Israel):
“Agricultural research is focused on the 'development' of ever more profitable varieties of chickens. The method is based on artificial selection of fowls, who suffer since birth from deformities; by cross-breeding them, the 'developers' can reduce the size of inedible parts such as feet, and increase the weight of the most profitable parts such as the breast. Because of these manipulations, chickens are born with small feet incapable of supporting their oversized bodies. A turkey's breast weight, for example, has been doubled in relation to the total body weight: from 19.7% of total body weight in 1940 to 38.2% in 1980.
"[…] The fowl pay a heavy price for these genetic manipulations. They collapse under the weight of their own bodies because their small bones and skeletons cannot carry the huge burden of their muscles. The exaggerated weight of their breast pulls them forward and makes it difficult to walk. Their legs become wounded and diseased: They suffer painful foot deformities, injuries and swellings; their legs form unnatural angles; and many birds can hardly walk to get food and water.
"[…] Domesticated chickens and their wild relatives establish pecking orders when given the opportunity. Each bird's place in the pecking order is determined through strength demonstrations, which are mainly symbolic. The thousands of birds crowded together on industrial poultry farms cannot maintain proper social order. As a result, they peck each other and pluck each other's feathers until they cause wounds and sometimes death. In order to keep them from injuring and pecking each other to death, they are kept in darkness. Another method to reduce damage from attacks is to cut off the chickens' beaks [debeaking]. These 'solutions' do not ease the birds' restlessness, which stems from heat, stress and boredom. When a human enters the shed or the birds hear a loud noise, they run by the thousands to a corner; some get trampled on and killed.”
As anyone can see, animal rights are not compatible with the current industrial meat production, and only radical changes in the way meat is produced can begin to meet even the most basic of animals' rights.
Cultured meat is a potential solution to all of these cruel realities, since it will not necessitate raising or keeping live animals. Such meats will be cultured using animal cells which, with the use of advanced technology, will form edible tissues such as muscle and fat, through natural, biological cell growth. Instead of growing animals for animal products, the products themselves will be the only thing grown, so humanity would still be producing meat, with the exact same taste and texture, but without harming or using animals at all.
The environment perspective.
Conventional meat production has had numerous well-documented negative effects on our environment, such as deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, global warming, water waste, energy waste, species extinction (animal and plant) and more.
On November 29th, 2006, the UN published a report titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Options and Issues”. The report concludes that the livestock agricultural industry is one of the main causes for the current ecological crisis our planet is facing.
In its summary and conclusions section, the report states:
“The livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases and one of the leading casual factors in the loss of biodiversity, while in developed and emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of water pollution.”
Cultured meat can provide an answer to all of these ecological problems. According to a research carried out by scientists from Oxford University and the University of Amsterdam, unlike the present meat production, cultured meat will be environment friendly:
“In comparison to conventionally-produced European meat […] cultured meat would involve approximately 7%-45% lower energy use, 78%-96% lower greenhouse gas emissions, 99% lower land use, and 82%-96% lower water use depending on the type of meat.”
The human population growth perspective.
As of August 18th, 2011, the world's human population is about 6,938,200,000. It is expected to increase to about 9.2 billion by 2050,.
The current meat industry raises and slaughters more than 100 billion animals annually, worldwide. These numbers are projected to increase, globally, in the coming years.
”According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations’ recent report ‘Livestock’s long shadow – environmental issues and options’, global production of meat is projected to more than double from 229×10^9 kg/year in 1999/2000 to 465×10^9 kg/year in 2050 (Steinfeld et al. 2006, FAO document)”.
“The bulk of growth will occur in developing countries through intensive production systems, where emerging economies will cause a steady increase of the size of operations”.
“It is expected that the future growth of livestock output will be based on similar growth rates for feed concentrate use.” ~ The In Vitro Meat Consortium: Why In Vitro Meat?
Cultured meat is the most effective and realistic global solution to practically all grave problems caused by traditional meat production. Cultured meat has the potential to transform key aspects of today's reality for humans, for animals and for the planet. Innovative, paradigm-shifting technologies shape the world. Cultured meat can very well become such a technology .