The clean meat revolution

A couple of years ago I saw a documentary on Netflix called Cowspiracy.

Yes, it was made by a filmmaker with an agenda. And yes, it was a masterpiece of manipulative filmmaking.

The guy who made it – ‎Kip Andersen – could teach any ad agency a thing or two about how to produce persuasive content.

But it was interesting. And it did throw up some big questions.

It was well made because it didn’t go down the usual route of showing all the poor animals and the terrible conditions in which they live.

Its main thrust was about pollution.

The facts Andersen dug up about the pollution meat eating causes are pretty incredible. Here are the main ones:

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
  • Livestock and their by-products account for at least 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US.
  • 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of beef.
  • Livestock or livestock feed occupies 1/3 of the Earth’s ice-free land.
  • A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
  • Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.

Those stats may seem unbelievable. But they are all well backed up. You can see how he reached these conclusions here.

That’s why it’s called cow-spiracy. He states that there is a conspiracy among the big food and farming organisations to keep this information suppressed.

We’re told that the main cause of pollution is manufacture and transportation, but as you can see above, that pales in comparison to meat production.

Even if his facts can be disputed, there’s no doubt that eating meat causes a vast amount of pollution and occupies a huge amount of land.

The way we go about farming animals now doesn’t seem sustainable.

Andersen’s answer to this was simple. We should just eat less meat.

But then, he would say that, wouldn’t he? He is an ardent vegan after all.

But what if there was a better solution. One that kept everyone happy, and meant we didn’t have to give up anything? It turns out there is.

The clean meat revolution could solve all these problems – even the ethical ones

Even if we put the ethical considerations of eating animals aside (personally, I eat meat and probably always will) the amount of pollution it causes, and the amount of space it takes up, is a massive problem.

And let’s not forget, this is a multi-billion, if not multi-trillion, pound industry. So the companies that solve these problems will make a lot of money in the process.

They will also change the way we think about food forever. So, how are they going about it?

By growing the meat in labs.

Lab-grown meat has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years. It’s now at a point where it’s becoming commercially viable.

In fact, one of the leading companies in this area – Impossible Foods – is already able to produce four million lab-grown burgers a month.

At the moment these lab-grown, or “clean meats” as the makers prefer to call them, fall into three categories.

  1. “Meat” made from various vegetable products that are mixed together to taste, look, feel and cook like real meat. It even “bleeds” like real meat. For some reason the makers see this “bleeding” as a plus.
  2. Actual lab-grown meat, cultured from muscle biopsies, which don’t harm the donor animal.
  3. Actual lab-grown meat, which is created from the DNA in yeast and other microbes.

The above Impossible Foods example falls into the first category. It’s not really meat, it’s different bits of plants mushed together.

And it costs about the same as a normal burger. Impossible Burgers are widely available in the US, but harder to find over here in the UK. I’m yet to try one, but they apparently taste very real. Apparently.

The $330,000 burger, now at a 99.99% discount

The other two categories used to be prohibitively expensive. The first clean meat burger made from actual lab-grown meat was made in 2013 and cost $330,000.

Two years later the cost had dropped by 99.99%. It now costs around $11 to make enough clean beef for a burger.

As with all technology, the cost keeps on dropping. So it’s very likely we’ll soon be able to get clean meat burgers at a much lower price than regular ones. And by soon, I mean in just a couple of years.

Once these hit the market, it could cause a huge disruption to meat industry. After all, why wouldn’t you want meat that is half the price and creates virtually no pollution and harms no animals?

There is only the hurdle that this is the very definition of a “Frankenfood”, as the Daily Mail would say. But if you can get over that, clean meat makes compete sense.

The lobby groups will hate it. The farmers will hate it. The press will hate it. But eventually, clean meat will win out.

And let’s not forget, by eating clean meat, you avoid all the growth hormones, antibiotics and other nasties pumped into our cattle. It may be a Frankenfood, but it would be a whole lot better for you than most meat.

Could lab-grown meat really disrupt such a big industry as the meat one? Paul Shapiro, author of Clean Meat, gives an interesting comparison in a recent NPR article:

Shapiro says that [the switch to clean meat] will be akin to the ending of large-scale whale slaughter by the U.S. whaling fleet in the years following the invention of the kerosene lantern. In the mid-1800s, around 8,000 whales annually were killed in seas around the world by that fleet, largely because whale oil was used so heavily for lighting; after kerosene was commercialized, the U.S. whaling industry went “from hegemony to irrelevance.”

How would you feel about eating lab-grown meat? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time,

Harry Hamburg
Editor, Exponential Investor

PS At time of writing there is a bitcoin bloodbath going on. Cryptos are massively down for the second day in a row. I’m not sure what the state of the market will be by the time you read this. But I can help you understand what’s happening, and give you some strategies to come out of it okay. It’s all explained here in my FOMO vs FUD essay.

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