Lab meat can “radically” transform the world economy

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Lab grown meat opportunity

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Meat should be grown in labs to help tackle climate change and the growing antibiotic resistance crisis, new research from UK think tank the Adam Smith Institute has claimed.

The report called “Don’t have a cow man: the prospects for lab grown meat”​ argues the availability of lab grown meat could mean a cut in agricultural greenhouse gas emissions of 78 to 96% while using 99% less land.

It said that meat demands on the land are intensive, with beef taking a whole hectare to feed one person. The implication of using lab meat could “be immense” with some 14.5% of human caused greenhouse gases and 60% of biodiversity loss attributed to current intensive farming practices.  

Report authors Dr Madsen Pirie and Jamie Hollywood argue that the new technological developments like cultured meat “are in the process of radically transforming the world economy”.

With demand for meat and milk expected to increase globally 70% by the year 2050 lab grown meat generated by cleaner energy could allow more people to access high quality meat at a sustainably lower environmental cost, the report argued.  

While it admits that commercially competitive prices are still some way off the price of lab meat has been falling. Just five years ago the cost of a burger made with meat grown in a lab stood at $215,000, but now the price tag has dropped to just £8. 

The report also argues that lab grown meat has the potential to solve the looming antibiotic resistance crisis.

With farming using up to 70% of antibiotics, the cases of resistance are on the rise, driven by intensive farming practices, it said.

Cultured meats don’t use antibiotics to speed up muscle growth and the report explained that the move from livestock to lab cultures could save millions of lives.  

Madsen Pirie, president of the Adam Smith Institute, said: “For 12,000 years humans have reared animals for meat. In future they will not need to. This will release millions of acres of pastureland for other uses. It will resolve all of the ethical issues involved in the rearing and slaughter of animals. It will give the world access to a low cost, high protein diet, and the UK could become a world leader in this multi-billion-pound new industry.”

Jamie Hollywood, co-author of the report, said: "The direction of technological innovation can be the key to averting many of the major ecological problems currently facing humanity. The herald of cultured meat will lessen the impact of antibiotic resistance, as well as potentially reducing the carbon footprint and levels of pollution caused by the current methods of meat production.”

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