SuperMeat – Healthy Cultured Meat A Good Alternative?

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We are living in a time where morals and ethics are at the forefront of social discussion. Animal welfare, ethical treatment and mitigation of suffering, and healthy eating choices are all combining and shining a light on traditional agricultural practices and methods of harvesting meat.

While this discussion is taking place, technological advancement is happening at such a rate as to not only shift our perception of what is possible, but revolutionize our understanding of alternatives, and not only sidestep our moral concerns, but replace them altogether. For a consumer concerned with animal welfare and its implications, the traditional conventional options were to forgo meat, and pursue a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, one mirrored in religious diets with similar concerns.

More recently the options have expanded to include meat alternatives; dishes and products that replicate meat, but are typically plant based alternatives. Now, with cultured meat, companies like SuperMeat are leading the way in creating an entirely meat alternative without any of the animal suffering

Who Is SuperMeat?

Based in Israel, SuperMeat is a biotechnology start up that is finding popular support and funding through crowd funding page, Indiegogo. It was co-founded by Koby Barak, and Ido Savir, who each hold a B. Sc. in Cell Biology from Tel-Aviv University, and Computer Science and Life Science from Bar Ilan University, respectively.

The Head of Research and co-founder is Yaakov Nahmias, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and award winning biomedical engineer. He has been lauded for his work in biomedical innovation, including his work on engineering liver tissue and metabolism. SuperMeat is joined by other notable individuals such as Shir Friedman, their spokesperson and VP of Marketing, Noa Deutsch, IT Manager, Theodora Karchovsky, Head of PR, Ronen Bar, Campaign Manager, and Daniel Erlich, Director of Multimedia.

SuperMeat is motivated both by technological breakthrough and the pursuit of higher scientific ideals, as well as ideological desire to create a cruelty-free solution to growing global demand for meat and food in general. SuperMeat is specifically focused on developing machines that organically grow chicken from a biopsy of cells, into full portions of meat. Their goal is to create 100% meat with 0% animal suffering, while reducing humanity’s carbon footprint, and associated guilt.

Why is Cultured Meat Necessary?

For thousands of years religious and ideologically motivated people have turned to vegetarianism as a conscious decision to regard animal welfare as equal to humans, or at least deserving of humane treatment. As our population has grown, and the modern diet has incorporated more and more animal products as staples, and plant based diets have taken the backseat, demand and therefore production methods have become more efficient and cost effective, which often translates into less humane, often placing higher value on cost efficiency than welfare of non-humans.

It is common to see videos or read news reports of slaughterhouse workers abusing animals, and chickens, pigs, cows, and others being stuffed into overcrowded and unhygienic living conditions.

Moral treatment aside, another omnipresent issue of modern civilization is the rapid acceleration of climate change and the effects of industry on the planet. Agriculture, and specifically herd animals being raised en masse in order to feed the demands of a rapidly expanding global population and its demand for largely meat based diets. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that 9% of all human caused CO2 emissions come from raising animals for consumption, as well as 37% of methane emissions, and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions.

Animal agriculture uses anywhere from 34-76 trillion gallons of water per year, and agricultural emissions is expected to rise by 80% by 2050. Livestock and associated effects are estimated to have been responsible for 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This past year has seen some of the most steadily increasing temperatures on record, with climate change expected only to accelerate at an increasing pace. Without a real sense of change to social attitudes and practices, our global climate will be catastrophically affected in a short period of time.

What is the Benefit of Cultured Meat?

Our society's desire for humane treatment of animals, and to drastically reduce our carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions have become one intertwined issue. While the traditional argument for good results has been the cessation of consumption of animal products, it has been recognized that aside for a relatively small portion of the population, general attitudes towards this idea are sympathetic, but not consistently dedicated to affect real change on a timeline that would benefit our current situation.

This understanding, coupled with revolutionary breakthroughs and cutting edge technology has spurred scientists and developers like SuperMeat to sidestep the issue of reducing meat consumption by replacing traditional farming practices with cost effective, cruelty free meat with a drastically reduced effect on the environment.

Is SuperMeat The Answer?

SuperMeat is not the only enterprise focused on cultured meat; In vitro cultivation of meat begun as far back as 1971, and has been studied at numerous universities and research institutions. In 2003, a steak grown from frog tissue a was grown, cooked, and eaten. The first beef burger was grown out of strips of muscle and consumed in London, England in 2013. SuperMeat may not be the first, but they are making strong headway into the world of cultured meat.

While the first burger cost 250,000 pounds, SuperMeat expects its product to cost only $5 per pound of meat. By producing meat via machine, it can be grown in a similar way to the way synthetic products are created, in the sense that the years long, land and resource intensive practice of farming an animal from birth to plate can be abandoned for dense, cost-effective methods.

As an Israeli-based company, SuperMeat has taken it on itself to consult rabbis and secure their approval as being kosher, which means that one day soon, even the most religious adherents of Judaism, may be able to enjoy meat products from animals they have never been allowed to taste. In a time where the demand for alternatives to increasingly inhumane and incredibly environmentally unfriendly practices such as typical herd farming are higher than ever, SuperMeat is the leading the charge into the future of food.

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