Expanding meat alternatives

The traditional veggie burger, constructed from a mixture of soy, beans and lentils, has been around in name since 1982. Since its introduction, the dry and brittle texture of the product has enticed the appetites of few. This was also the case for many plant-based meat alternatives of the past.  

However, the demand remained high, on account of the growing number of consumers refraining from the indulgence of animal products. These consumers are concerned with the faults of the meat industry, including bustiness, environmental and ethical concerns. As a response, many popular startup companies have formed in pursuit of plant-based options which not only satisfy ethical concerns, but flavor concerns as well.  

This is where lab-grown meat substitutes come in. The first artificial beef burger was produced in the Netherlands in 2013. This patty was grown using cow cells and cost a total of $330,000 to produce. The research proved valuable as it allowed for the development of more cost-effective cultured meats. In the past year, there has been a surge in popularity for brands centered around the production of artificial meats. These synthetic products are made through the growth of muscle cells, which are placed in nutrient serum. They can then be altered to produce a more muscle-like texture.  

The result is boneless processed meat which can be seasoned, cooked and consumed like regular meat. This “cellular agriculture” produces the same proteins, fats and tissues that would be found in animal products. In addition, these methods provide a direct alternative to those of traditional meat production, which have been found to cause greenhouse emissions. Cattle livestock contribute to 10 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, which has been connected to climate change. Livestock also require large amounts of resources, such as food and water, and take up large plots of land.  

Lab-produced meats continue to grow in popularity as startups continue to innovate within the industry. In 2019, numerous restaurant chains including Burger King brought artificial meats to their menu. Starbucks, the largest coffee chain in the world, recently announced that it would be exploring meat alternatives.