OPINION

Israel opens first lab-grown meat factory in the world

The first lab-grown meat factory in the world has just opened in Israel. Picture: Shutterstock.
The first lab-grown meat factory in the world has just opened in Israel. Picture: Shutterstock.

"We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium."

Nine years before Sir Winston Churchill became British prime minister, he wrote a 4000-word article about his predictions for what the future of the world may look like by the year 1981 titled Fifty Years Hence.

He may have been a little early with his prediction for chicken production, but only a true visionary could have predicted how we may produce food in the future.

The first lab-grown meat factory in the world has just opened in Israel.

It will use animal cells to produce chicken, beef, lamb and pork. Also known as cultured meat, this "slaughter-free" meat production is part of a food revolution that may well sweep the globe.

More lifestyle:

In Australia we have good access to meat at reasonable prices, but it's not the case in other countries.

The average Australian consumes 110 kilograms of meat a year, two-and-a-half times more than the global average.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates the demand for meat to increase by more than two-thirds in the next 40 years and current production methods are not sustainable.

Despite this ability to produce high-quality meat at reasonable prices, more than 10 per cent of Australians identify as vegetarians.

There are typically three reasons that people make the choice to eliminate meat from their food intake.

The most common reason is the idea that some people feel uncomfortable with the death of an animal for our food intake when plant intake is readily available.

One person told me that he has a principle that says if a food has parents, he won't eat it.

Secondly, we know that methane from livestock is a contributor to climate change - potentially as high as eight per cent of total global warming - so others choose a meat-free diet for the sake of the environment.

Lastly, some people just don't like the taste.

Once meat is grown in a laboratory, that removes the first two reasons for people to choose to be a vegetarian.

This factory can currently produce 500 kilograms of cultured meat products a day.

To put it into perspective, Australians collectively consume almost 7800 tonnes of meat a day.

Australians collectively consume almost 7800 tonnes of meat a day.

This factory is not designed to satisfy the needs of the world. It won't even satisfy the needs of a regional city ... yet.

On the plus side, the factory is able to "grow" meat 20 times faster than traditional animal agriculture, while generating 80 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

The first lab-grown meat went on sale in Singapore at the end of last year.

Many locations are yet to legalise the sale of the faux meat as they continue to test not just the end product, but the process to produce the final product.

The entire process starts by harvesting muscle cells from a living animal.

Scientists then feed and nurture the cells so they multiply to create muscle tissue, which makes up the main component of the meat products we eat.

The cells grow into strands; 20,000 of these small strands of meat are then combined to create one normal sized hamburger.

Biologically it is identical to the meat we eat - minus the fat. The growth medium it is bathed in contains proteins, vitamins, sugars and amino acids.

The question is ... would you eat lab grown meat?

  • Mathew Dickerson is a technologist, futurist and host of the podcast, Tech Talk.
This story Would you eat meat products that were grown in a lab? first appeared on The Canberra Times.