LAST UPDATED: 13 December 2016
Humans eat TONNES of meat every year. But we simply can't keep eating animals the way we have been. It's just not sustainable — or very fair to animals. And while millions of people are choosing to cut back or go meat-free, scientists and innovators around the world have been banging their brains together to find solutions to make it even easier for people to live sustainably and compassionately. One of their answers is this.
Clean meat: What is it?
You might have heard of it by one of many other names: lab meat, cultured meat, in-vitro meat ... but it's most aptly called 'clean meat'. Why? Because it has the potential to clean up the planet, as well being safe from many of the health concerns associated with farm raised 'meat'. Clean meat is meat grown in a controlled environment — a bit like a brewery — from muscle tissues extracted from an animal, without harming them. It requires far less land, less water and creates less greenhouse gasses than raising animals for slaughter.
Cultured meat could potentially be produced with up to 96% lower greenhouse gas emissions, 45% less energy, 99% lower land use, and 96% lower water use than conventional meat.Hanna Tuomisto, Oxford University
Clean meat is also free from the antibiotics and hormones that many farm raised animals are fed, and avoids the risk of contamination from bacteria and faecal matter that comes with raising and killing animals. Which brings us to the other individuals who stand to benefit from clean meat ... As well as being safer for the planet, and safer for humans, clean meat could spare countless animals from suffering.
Meet the meat
Three years ago Professor Mark Post from the Netherlands served up the very first cultured beef burger. Since then progress in this area has exploded, with scientists across the world growing meat, milk, eggs and even leather from stem cells. Earlier this year, Memphis Meats unveiled their cultured meatball and have promised to bring lab grown pork to the market within five years. SuperMeat, the brains behind the video above, claim to be the first to work on cultured chicken meat products — a market with an undeniable demand, as they reached their initial crowdfunding target within just two weeks of launching! (Don't worry, if you'd like to help them kickstart their project it's not too late to chip in and receive your SuperMeat voucher.)
Given that the meat market is worth billions of dollars every year, it's not surprising to see some of the world's biggest tech innovators vying for a piece of the clean meat pie, so to speak. The likes of Bill Gates, Sergey Brin (Google Co-founder) and Peter Thiel (PayPal co-founder) have all backed projects in this space. But there's more than just money to be made from investing in clean meat. For Sergey Brin, who backed the very first lab grown beef burger with a whopping €250,000, the motivation was for animal welfare reasons.
When you see how these cows are treated, it's certainly something I'm not comfortable with.Sergey Brin, Google Co-founder
Is there another way?
Yes, there is. One in four Australians are already helping animals and the planet by reducing the amount of meat, eggs and dairy they eat. Many restaurants offer plant-based options and recipes for easy and delicious meals are in abundance online and in cookbook. And if you want to enjoy the same textures and tastes of meat right away, food innovators have already come up with a great range of plant-based meats. Plant-based foods are taking off worldwide, with companies like Beyond Meat, Fry's, Tofurky and Gardein rising to the challenge to create convincing alternatives to animal meat, using plants. So on top of all the other reasons to take animals off our plates, you can add this one: Plant-based meats are getting more and more delicious every day.
Check out the vegetarian section in your supermarket and you'll find schnitzels, nuggets, sausages, burgers and more. And with companies like Beyond Meat looking to expand into Australia the range will continue to grow. For our recommendations of the best-tasting convenience foods, plus meat-free recipes and more, grab a free vegetarian starter kit today.