Thanks to veganism, people all over the world are beginning to question where their food comes from. They begin to challenge cruel industries like meat production and the harmful effects it has on the health of our planet.
But is the growing vegan trend enough to stop or surpass the still dominant meat industry? First off, let’s look at the current state of affairs.
The meat industry's current state
In the US alone, meat production is projected to rise up to 1.3% in 2019 compared to last year. That’s estimated to be around 103.3 billion pounds of red meat.
This is a trend that has been continuing for the past decades, with worldwide meat production increasing by up to 500% since 1961. Average growth since 2010 has been hovering around 1% - 2%.
One of the largest growth in recent years was in 2012, but now production growth is slowing down, with only 1% and 1.5% growth in 2017 and 2018, respectively. .
In the US, total consumption of meat is slightly lower at 217.3 pounds this 2019, compared to last year’s 218.6 pounds. That’s not a lot, but it means that Americans are starting to eat less meat in general.
Is veganism fighting back?
This is thanks in part to the rising vegan movement, and it's seriously giving the meat industry a run for its money.
According to IBISWorld Research, the demand for plant-based food continues to soar, prompting restaurants to adapt. Even big-name food manufacturers are taking a piece off the vegan pie, as they introduce plant-based products into their rosters.
An example is UK supermarket brand Tesco, which released a line of vegan products, including a vegan steak. It was a smashing success, with 40,000 steaks sold within the first few days of its launch.
And here’s one surprising statistic: close to 95% of people who tried out a vegan burger are actually meat eaters!
Clearly, environmental awareness is starting to take hold among consumers, which is a good thing. People nowadays are much more conscious of how and where the food they eat is sourced. And they don’t mind spending more money and time looking for better alternatives.
People are also more conscious of their health, and they know the negative effects of over consumption of meat.
The increasing price of meat is also a big reason why more people are considering plant-based food. Meat production is a very resource-intensive industry. And with land and water becoming ever so scarce worldwide, the cost of meat is forecasted to soar even higher in the coming years.
The emergence of lab meat
But the meat industry is fighting back with innovation and cutting-edge science. One of these breakthroughs is a revolutionary protein called "clean meat" or "lab meat."
True to its namesake, “clean meat” is meat that is grown in a lab instead of through livestock farming. This is done through the cultivation of animal cells extracted from a live animal, but without ever needing to kill said animal. That’s where the “cleanliness” of this meat comes from.
Clean meat is poised to end animal farming for good, and with it, the carbon footprint and green gas emissions of this industry, which accounts for 18% of total emissions worldwide.
It’s also hailed as the savior of the world’s food crisis, potentially feeding billions of starving people in impoverished nations around the world. This is because lab meat is efficient: a single tissue from a cow can possibly be made into 80,000 burger patties.
Beef was the first clean meat to be made, but scientists are looking at a more efficient, long-term source. That happens to be fish. Since they are cold-blooded animals, you don't need high temperatures to culture fish cells. This makes it easier and cheaper to produce in the long run.
While clean meat is now a real thing (the first artificial burger was actually grown successfully five years prior), it's still relatively more expensive than real meat. A burger patty of lab-grown beef costs an average of $11. Still, prices are expected to drop as the science gets better and techniques are perfected.
Is lab meat the answer?
At surface level, lab meat seems to solve the problem of animal exploitation enough for it to be considered by vegans. After all, no animal was slaughtered in making that burger, right? And there are no land usage or carbon footprint to speak of.
Vegans argue, however, that the ultimate source of the cell used in the lab meat is still from an animal. That, in itself, is still animal exploitation. If the animal cell itself is grown and not sourced from livestock, then maybe that would be more acceptable.
But vegans still need to be part of the discussion of lab meat, as it’s a promising technology to help reduce the planet’s greenhouse emissions.
It's the bitter reality that not everyone on the planet can be convinced to go on a plant-based diet. By having clean meat, we at least get to help the Earth while still catering to meat-eaters. It’s not an ideal situation for vegans, but it’s a compromise.
Clean meat is here, but it’s not mainstream yet. For now, the best way we can help the environment is to continue using cruelty-free and plant-based products, such as those that can be found in our vegan marketplace.
What’s your take on lab meat and the future of the meat industry? Let us know in the comments below!