Lab-grown meat impacts

Lab-grown meat can impact 50 times more than meat

Despite the billion-dollar investments, even in spreading a complacent “green” narrative in the media, the impacts of producing synthetic meat are 10 to 50 times greater than natural meat. 

We had already faced how unfounded what was trumped up by supporters of lab-grown meat about its environmental sustainability. Now, our estimates, based on the most recent literature collected from the Wageningen report, led us to evaluate 2.5 times the contribution to global warming of artificial meat compared to natural meat (consisting of all meat from the different farmed species) if all the demand until 2030 was covered by this artificial product (leaving unchanged the contemporary production framework).

Before we get into the surprising news, let’s clarify why Carni Sostenibili persists in qualifying these products as “artificial” and does not use the term “cell-based“, “cultured“, or “cultivated meat“, as recently suggested by FAO-WHO in the famous report that illustrates all the hazards deriving from the consumption of such “foods”.

Natural meat (like all foods) consists of cells, and their cultivation occurs with natural processes within the animals raised, fed, and cared for this purpose. Removing these cells and their extracorporeal culture is an artificial process, such as, for example, the artificial (and thus also legally recognized) instrumental insemination of females of all species.

Despite #BillionDollar #investments, even in spreading a complacent #GreenNarrative in the media, the impacts of #LabGrownMeat are 10 to 50 times greater than those of natural #Meat. Click To Tweet

The new aspect for which we return to this topic in a short time is that a pre-review work of a research group at the University of California Davis was made public on the platform BioRxiv ®, which uses much more accurate estimation methods than those used in previous publications and comes to a truly surprising assessment of the impacts of lab-grown meat on the environment.  

The authors start with two econometric models (TEA, Tecno-Economic Assessment), whose diagrams have been recently published in peer-reviewed journals, to derive the process of producing lab-grown meat as detailed as possible. Compared to previous impact analyses, the authors note that removing endotoxins from the cell growth medium is one of the key factors.

In particular, the signatories of the work inform us that “Endotoxins, also known as lipopolysaccharides (LPS), are a critical component of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. Endotoxins contain a hydrophilic polysaccharide fraction, covalently bound to a hydrophobic lipid known as lipid A. Gram-negative bacteria are ubiquitous in the environment and commonly found in tap water. In cell cultures, the presence of endotoxins can have various effects. 

For example, at an endotoxin concentration of just 1 ng/ml, pregnancy success rates are reduced by 3-4 times during in vitro fertilization of human embryos. Gram-negative bacteria release small amounts of endotoxin into the environment when they increase and release large amounts when they are inactivated.”

The #LabProduction of #LabGrownMeat, or #Artificial Meat, is more impactful on #climate and #environment than #farming. Here's why. Click To Tweet

Purification processes from these ubiquitous endotoxins are expensive regarding resource consumption and environmental impacts. They are especially necessary when switching from small cell cultures, such as these, to large reactors intended for industrial artificial meat production.

The authors have constructed three basic scenarios and as many with factors of purification from the endotoxins of production processes: the inclusion of purification, considered indispensable by scientists, leads to emissions of a minimum of 246 to a maximum of 1,508 CO2e per kg of product, 4 to 22 times greater than the median of the data obtainable in the literature, related to emissions per kg of boneless, fat-free beef, with the addition of offal.

Compared to the kg of natural meat mix currently available on the world market, these impacts are 10 to 50 times greater. In light of these results, the authors’ conclusion is lapidary: “Our model contradicts previous studies, suggesting that the environmental impact of lab-grown meat is greater than that of conventional beef systems, rather than being more environmentally friendly. 

This is an important conclusion, given that the investments have been specifically allocated to this sector assuming that this product will be more environmentally friendly than beef.”

President Emeritus of the Association for Science and Animal Production, Professor of Special Zootechnics at the Department of Agriculture of the University of Sassari and President of the Sustainable Meat Association.