Study Finds Scaling Up Production Using Existing Processes Highly Energy-Intensive
- Cultured meat is not inherently better for the environment.
- Global warming potential 25 times greater than beef if using purified culture media to produce.
- Leaping from “pharma to food” product is a significant technological challenge.
Lab-grown meat, which is cultured from animal cells, is often thought to be more environmentally friendly than beef because it’s predicted to need less land, water and greenhouse gases than raising cattle. But in a preprint, not yet peer-reviewed, researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found that lab-grown or “cultivated” meat’s environmental impact is likely to be “orders of magnitude” higher than retail beef based on current and near-term production methods.
Researchers conducted a life-cycle assessment of the energy needed and greenhouse gases emitted in all stages of production and compared that with beef. One of the current challenges with lab-grown meat is the use of highly refined or purified growth media, the ingredients needed to help animal cells multiply. Currently, this method is similar to the biotechnology used to make pharmaceuticals. This sets up a critical question for cultured meat production: Is it a pharmaceutical product or a food product?
“If companies are having to purify growth media to pharmaceutical levels, it uses more resources, which then increases global warming potential,” said lead author and doctoral graduate Derrick Risner, UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology. “If this product continues to be produced using the “pharma” approach, it’s going to be worse for the environment and more expensive than conventional beef production.”…