Giving Compass’ Take:
• 80,000 Hours talks with food scientist Marie Gibbons on lab-grown meat — also known as “clean meat” — which could be sold commercially soon. This podcast goes in depth on the process, but also discusses its full potential in the market.
• Clean meat is created without killing animals, has a low impact on the environment, and could potentially solve world hunger issues, if scaled at low costs. The question is: Will consumers embrace it?
• This is not to be confused with “alt-meat companies,” but both should be looked at for sustainable food solutions.
First, decide on the type of animal. Next, pick the cell type. Then take a small, painless biopsy, and put the cells in a solution that makes them feel like they’re still in the body. Once the cells are in this comfortable state, they’ll proliferate. One cell becomes two, two becomes four, four becomes eight, and so on. Continue until you have enough cells to make a burger, a nugget, a sausage, or a piece of bacon, then concentrate them until they bind into solid meat.
It’s all surprisingly straightforward in principle according to Marie Gibbons, a research fellow with The Good Food Institute, who has been researching how to improve this process at Harvard Medical School. We might even see clean meat sold commercially within a year.
The real technical challenge is developing large bioreactors and cheap solutions so that we can make huge volumes and drive down costs.
This interview covers the science and technology involved at each stage of clean meat production, the challenges and opportunities that face cutting-edge researchers like Marie, and how you could become one of them.
Marie’s research focuses on turkey cells. But as she explains, with clean meat the possibilities extend well beyond those of traditional meat. Chicken, cow, pig, but also panda — and even dinosaurs could be on the menus of the future.
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