When we think of following a more sustainable lifestyle, we typically imagine shopping carts brimming with minimally processed, whole foods, chock full of fruits and veggies. To be sure, a steady stream of science urges us that swapping plant proteins for animal ones as well as choosing certified organic, high-welfare meat and dairy can bolster our health and reduce our impact on the planet.
But there’s a revolution brewing that offers a radical new path for eaters hungry for alternative solutions to one of our biggest food challenges. It’s so new that even its name isn’t firmly established — it has been called at various turns clean meat, cell-based meat, lab-grown meat and more. In fact, it’s so new that governments around the world are scrambling to regulate it. And it’s coming to a table near you faster than you think.
What is lab-grown meat anyway?
While companies vary in exact details, broadly speaking “lab-grown meat” refers to a method of making animal protein that’s far from a feedlot: In this approach, stem cells collected from animal tissue are placed in a medium meant to mimic nature and support growth (including amino acids, vitamins, minerals and a proprietary blend, which may be plant or animal derived). The result? A finished product that packs all the mouthwatering flavor and texture of, say, a hamburger or a chicken breast, but with none of the ethical, environmental or public health problems that can plague conventional meat production. In other words, it tastes like real meat, but no animal was harmed for it. While questions remain about animal welfare, even PETA has been supportive of this approach.