Can vegetarians eat lab-grown meat?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Can vegetarians eat lab-grown meat?” and will discuss what is lab-grown meat and is it safe?

Can vegetarians eat lab-grown meat?

No, vegetarians can not eat lab-grown meat. Because animal cells would still be used in the production process for lab-grown meat. To obtain stem cells, a little piece of the animal’s muscle would be used. In other words, this is animal exploitation and hence would not be considered vegetarian (1).

In recent years, there was more than 20% growth in the plant-based meat category in 2018. The meat substitute market in Europe is predicted to increase from €1.5 billion in 2018 to €2.4 billion in 2025 and in the US the market value is expected to increase from $10.1 billion in 2018 to $30.9 billion by 2026 (2).

What is lab meat?

Edible animal tissues can be produced by culturing through tissue engineering and computational simulation techniques from stem cells and grown in the laboratory say that in-vitro meat (3).

In vitro growth of animal cells is how lab-grown meat is made. A tiny sample of an animal’s cells is collected by cellular agriculturists. Starting cells for meat production could be taken from live animals’ biopsy or animal embryos and then put into a culture media where they start to proliferate and grow. These may be obtained by swabbing a piece of skin tissue, a feather, or any other natural material. Embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, myosatellite cells, and myoblasts are examples of cells with a high rate of multiplication (3).

These cells need to be embedded in a three-dimensional matrix that allows for muscle growth. During cultivation, the cells are put in a controlled cultivator and exposed to a growth media-rich in nutrients. As a result, the stem cells behave as if they were still in the animal’s body, which is to say that they reproduce rapidly and at high densities as fast as possible (3).

As a consequence, an edible product is created that resembles animal flesh in appearance, cooking method, and flavor. The main distinction is that it does not need the death of an animal to be made. The conventional meat production practices have some risks like zoonotic disease, shortage of grassland, drug resistance disease in the environment and also greenhouse gas emission is increasing etc. but the in vitro meat production system is that the conditions are controlled and manipulated to reduce the risk (3).

Is lab meat vegetarian?

Meat produced in a laboratory is, by definition, meat and as such, is not vegetarian. For others, though, the notion might provide a “loophole” as no animals were harmed in the making of it.

Not all lab-grown meat is devoid of animal usage manufacturing processes. For culturing of meat, several stem cell types are used, such as myoblast or satellite cells from bovine, porcine. This adult tissue derived stem cell is the bona fide cell responsible for muscle regeneration after injury in these animals. For the production of other components of meat such as fat tissue, another adult tissue resident stem cell, the adipose tissue derived stem cell, is used (4).

 To create his clean beef patty, Dutch scientist Mark Post used cells cultivated in an animal broth, which he exhibited at a press conference in 2013.

According to him, animal slaughter is the most effective form of cellular agriculture. Post told The Telegraph that his long-term goal is to have a small herd of animal donors that he keeps in reserve and sources his stem cells from.

Vegetarians considering lab-grown meat have a dilemma because of the use of fetal bovine serum (FBS). FBS is the most extensively utilized serum supplement in the industry for eukaryotic cells since it is derived from the blood of a cow fetus. Sera from either adult animals, newborns or from fetal sources have been included as standard supplements for cell culture media. Synthetic serum replacements and serum-free culture media can offer alternatives for culturing cells, however, serum-free media is usually supplemented with purified proteins of animal origin (5).

Even not being entirely vegetarian, the development of large-scale production of lab-grown meat could have a positive effect on the environment. Many alternative techniques are being investigated to improve the efficiency of the entire supply chain for meat within conventional systems in order to lower the impact on the environment. According to scientists, the overall environmental impacts of cultured meat production are substantially lower than those of conventionally produced meat (5).

Some businesses, on the other hand, such as the food technology firm JUST, go to great lengths to ensure that their products are devoid of animal byproducts. JUST demonstrates the process of creating its lab-grown chicken in a video. To us, “how we acquired the cells” was more significant than “getting the cells,” as JUST put it. A single feather from the finest bird we could locate was all it took.

Waiting for Ian the chicken to spontaneously lose a feather took some time. Using the cells from Ian’s feather, the scientists were able to save his life while still making a substantial contribution to the cause. While Ian walked around their feet, alive and well, the JUST crew ate actual chicken nuggets from the JUST restaurant.

For Ryan Bethencourt, a co-founder of Indie Bio, one of the world’s premier life science accelerators, lab-grown meat may fill the void between people’s craving for meat and their desire to cause as little damage as possible.

According to vegetarian Bethencourt, the goal is to maintain people eating what they want while producing food in a manner that does not harm the environment.

Is Lab Meat Safe to Consume?

The dangers of eating conventionally raised beef cannot be overstated. The WHO classified red meat as a Group 2 carcinogen in 2015, indicating that it is likely to cause cancer in humans. Processed meat, such as bacon, is classified by the WHO as being carcinogenic to humans. Other examples include exposure to asbestos and cigarette smoking.

According to research studies, a condition in vitro meat production system is controlled and manipulatable, it will be feasible to produce design, chemically safe and disease-free meat on a sustainable basis and also produce healthier alternatives of meat compared to livestock meat (3,5).

Lab-grown meat, according to Post, may be safer to consume than regular beef. “We get better control over the beef’s fat level,” the inventor of the first clean meat burger told The Atlantic. Reduced numbers of farmed animals also lessen zoonosis risk, which is when an infectious illness spreads from animals to people through the air, water, or food.

JUST have the same opinion. When it came to food safety, the company noted in its film, “We are doing things differently now than we used to.”

The film produced by JUST outlines the dangers of conventionally raised beef. Infectious diseases including salmonella, swine flu, giardia, and foot-and-mouth disease are also on the list. Clean beef, on the other hand, contains none of these dangers, according to the study. And the change is “stunning,” according to the business.

However, some nutrients of livestock meat must be added to lab-grown meat. Nutrients in cultured meat that are not synthesized by muscle cells must be supplied as supplements in the culture medium. For instance, the essential vitamin B12 is synthesized exclusively by certain species of gut-colonizing bacteria and is therefore found solely in food products of animal origin. Supplementation of vitamin B12 produced commercially by biosynthetic microbial fermentation would be necessary for it to be in a cultured meat product grown in an aseptic environment (5).Doctor Neal Barnard (president of PCRM) thinks that lab-grown beef might be enriched with additional nutrients like vitamin b12, in the same way that vitamin d is added to orange juice. 

In March, the FDA and USDA announced the creation of a framework for the regulation of “clean beef.” The notion of clean beef is still very much in its infancy, but that hasn’t diminished people’s curiosity. 66 percent of Americans, according to a new poll by the Good Food Institute, are willing to try lab-grown beef.

Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.

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Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Can vegetarians eat lab-grown meat?” and discussed what is lab-grown meat and is it safe?

References

  1. Alvaro, Carlo. Lab-grown meat and veganism: a virtue-oriented perspective. J Agric Environ Ethics, 2019, 32, 127-141. 
  2. Van Loo, Ellen J., Vincenzina Caputo, and Jayson L. Lusk. Consumer preferences for farm-raised meat, lab-grown meat, and plant-based meat alternatives: Does information or brand matter?. Food Pol, 2020, 95, 101931.   
  3. Mengistie, D. Lab-growing meat production from stem cell. J Nutr Food Sci, 2020, 3, 100015.  
  4. Post, Mark J. Cultured meat from stem cells: Challenges and prospects. Meat sci, 2012, 92, 297-301. 
  5. Kadim, Isam T., et al. Cultured meat from muscle stem cells: A review of challenges and prospects. J Integr Agri, 2015, 14, 222-233.