The U.S. has recently approved the sale of lab-grown meat, sparking debates on its potential impact on climate change. Though proponents argue that lab-grown meat can mitigate the nearly 15% of global greenhouse-gas emissions that come from livestock, it remains unclear whether its production at commercial scales will indeed be more environmentally friendly. The uncertainty arises due to the unknown factors in the production process, which will determine the costs and carbon emissions associated with lab-grown meat.
- The sale of lab-grown, or cultivated meat, was recently approved in the U.S. This burgeoning industry, consisting of over 150 companies, has raised billions to bring these products to markets.
- Livestock contributes nearly 15% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, hence the interest in more sustainable alternatives like lab-grown meat. However, its potential impact on the environment remains unclear due to uncertainties in the commercial-scale production process.
- Cultivated meat does produce emissions, given the energy required to run the reactors that house the growing cells. Currently, this energy often comes from fossil fuels, though renewables could be used in the future.
- A preprint study by Edward Spang from the University of California, Davis, revealed that the climate impacts of cultivated meat vary widely depending on the production techniques used. His study was criticized by some experts for its assumptions, particularly regarding the necessity of intensive purification processes.
- As lab-grown meat producers scale up, their methods are expected to move away from expensive equipment and ingredients, potentially reducing the carbon footprint. However, until larger facilities are built and running efficiently, the actual environmental impacts remain uncertain.