It’s time we stop slaughtering livestock for the sake of satisfying our world’s obsession with hamburgers. Considering the advances in 21st-century agricultural technology, factory farming is an outdated practice and considered by most – a downright cruel method of producing meat. Not only is livestock farming detrimental to our environment but it’s also a breeding ground for drug-resistant bacteria – all of it ending up on our dinner table.

Environmental Impact of Livestock Farming

Whether it’s powerful “Superbugs” caused by antibiotic growth promoters or the inhumane treatment of livestock, it’s time for a new sustainable means of keeping meat in our grocery stores. It’s just not healthy for the animals, people, and the Earth – plain and simple.

“Livestock farming contributes to 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.”

If you think the hamburger obsession is isolated to the U.S. only – think again: 26% of the ice-free land on Earth is used for livestock feed production, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “Each year 13 billion hectares (32.1 billion acres) of forest area are lost due to land consumption for agriculture uses as pastures or cropland, for both food and livestock feed crop production.”

The World’s First Lab-Grown Meatball

There’s a solution and it comes from a lab. With their version costing close to $18,000 a pound, Memphis Meats created the world’s first lab-grown meatball. According to Senior Scientist Eric Schulze, Ph.D, Memphis is trying to “divorce” the idea that meat has to come from animals. “What we’re producing is the same meat as you would get from an animal, we just took the animal out.” Memphis Meats’ three-step harvesting process includes:

1. Obtaining animal cells
2. Feeding the cells nutrients (food and water)
3. Once the cells have grown, delicious meat is ready to be cooled and eaten

“Once we tasted it, it was like a watershed moment… wow, this has the taste that is identical to a beef meatball.”

Conceptualized while injecting cells into patients to re-grow damaged heart tissue, Cardiologist Uma Valeti co-founded Memphis Meats as a clean, healthy alternative to factory farming. “These cells can grow in areas where there is no contamination from bacteria or fecal material,” according to Valeti. “And once we get to the point where we feel the meat is tender and mature, we just harvest it.”

Lab-Grown Meat: Cleaner, Healthier, Safer Alternative

With the livestock population expected to double by 2050 (The National Institute of Environmental Health Science), the benefits to lab-grown meat products far outweigh our current livestock farming system. From growing meats in a sterile environment (no need for antibiotics) to eliminating the threat of salmonella or e.coli contamination, lab-grown meats are a clean, healthier alternative. In addition, stem cell innovation allows for the complete removal of saturated fats. “Stem cells are, in principle, capable of making omega-3 fatty acids,” according to Professor Mark Post from Maastricht University. “If we can tap into that machinery of the cell, then we could make healthier hamburgers.”

Memphis Meats claims that its lab-grown meat process yields 90% fewer emissions. “We strongly believe once people are given the choice of eating meat the traditional way or in a way that’s much safer, better, and healthier for the planet, animals – and also for us – it’ll be an easy switch,” Valeti said.

Food Manufacturing Innovation

With estimates ranging from one to five years before seeing lab-grown meat in your neighborhood market, the technology compass seems to be pointing toward new ways of manufacture food. Whether it’s Memphis Meats’ lab meatball or Foodini – a mini-3D food processing plant – our world needs to welcome technology that keeps our food clean and at the same time, restores some of the natural resources stolen from factory farming.

Sources: Futurism, FAO, NCBI