New Zealand’s economy, built on billions of dollars of agricultural exports, may soon experience a drastic change. Food futurist Dr. Rosie Bosworth believes the country’s current agricultural commodities will not be able to compete with lab-grown animal products when they launch into the mainstream marketplace.
Modern technology now allows for stems cells to be extracted from an animal, then grown into muscle in a lab, a practice called cellular agriculture. This protein is the same meat you might find at a butcher’s store, but the difference is that lab-grown meat is made without the slaughter of animals.
The first successfully lab-grown hamburger was produced in 2013, Dr. Bosworth noted in a presentation, and major technological advances have followed in the past five years. Now, it’s not just beef that can be grown in a lab; food scientists are developing everything from chicken, fish, duck, milk, and cheese, to leather.
A developing interest in cellular agriculture is expected to revolutionize food within the next five to fifteen years. As more companies work to bring lab-grown animal products to store shelves across the globe, the price of field-grown counterparts will rise consecutively. “They aim to be at price parity in about five years time with conventional meat products. Two bucks a kilo, right? How will commodity agriculture ever compete with that?” Dr. Bosworth questioned.
Production of lab-grown meat is highly efficient compared to animal farming; only a few cells are needed to start a culture that can grow quickly in a matter of weeks, whereas the average gestation period of a cow is nine months. Additionally, Dr. Bosworth pointed out that cows require 23 calories of food to produce one calorie of prime steak. In contrast, just three calories of nutrient solution can grow the same calorie of meat in a lab.
Recently, New Zealand’s “clean and green” reputation was tainted by livestock-related environmental issues. However, clean meat may be the solution in rectifying damages. Dr. Bosworth revealed implementing large-scale cellular agriculture would reduce land and water usage, as well as climate emissions, by 90-95 percent. Conventional animal agriculture is a huge contributor to global warming; livestock and its byproducts are responsible for 51% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.