Meat production takes a heavy toll on the environment, producing 82% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Several leading environmentalists have criticised the way meat is produced. The scale of the industry is part of the problem, with millions of people eating meat on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, demand is set to rise. As increasing numbers of people enjoy better access to food, meat is becoming more popular. Traditionally, income rises encourage farming communities to trade in cheaper plant-based and whole foods like grains and lentils for meat. However, there isn’t currently enough land available to meet predicted demand, especially considered 70% of all farmland is now used to take care of livestock.
In light of the problem, some scientists have suggested that growing meat might be the answer. It could meet the demands of consumers, but without the hefty environmental cost of traditional meat rearing.
Growing meat would mean using 90% less land and 82% less water compared to standard meat production. The rearing of cattle also requires substantial amounts of grain: 100 grams of grain are used to produce 15 grams of meat.
Welcome to the Lab
Lab-grown meat could solve the space issue and could also significantly cut the impact on the environment. Both of which make it a far more attractive option than traditional meat production.
It’s also far easier to control pathogens and the saturated fat content of meat in the laboratory. This could make lab grown meat healthier for people, without sacrificing any of the flavour of traditional meat.
Could 3D printing meat be the answer?
Luckily, 3D printing technology could help facilitate the change. A Monash University conference held by Australian company Meat and Livestock Australia unveiled the first ever 3D printer for printed meat.
MLA Tomorrow’s Food manager Michael Lee argued that 3D printed meat is the meat of the future. During the conference, Lee suggested that 3D printers for meat production would soon be as popular as microwaves:
“This is real; this is happening now; we are not saying this technology will replace all sausages and steaks but that on some occasions, 3D printed meat will be available and sometimes preferable.”
“This may also present a value opportunity (to the industry); currently one-third of each animal (slaughtered) ends up as low-value burger trimmings for retailers like McDonald's. Why not see if this new technology gives us the opportunity to create more value for our farmers?”
Lee said that inexpensive and less popular cuts of meat, such as steak mince, often amount to a small profit for farmers in comparison to something like a steak. Lee said that a 3D printer could help fix the issue by incorporating the lower grade cuts of meat to produce high quality cuts.
Lee’s talk was accompanied by the ByFlow 3D printer from Holland, which he used to print out flower-shaped pieces of beef. The printer could be fuelled by cartridges containing either “real” meat particles or “bio-synthesised” particles that had been crafted from algae and bacteria in a lab.
Lee observed that the majority of people currently favoured the naturally-reared meat to the lab grown addition. However, as the synthesised food market grows, it’s likely that cheaper and tastier options will encourage more consumers to make the switch.
The meat of the future?
As environmental concerns become more and more pressing, lab-grown meat could be a fixture of our diets in the future. Would you try 3D-printed meat?