Climate change is a controversial topic. With the new Biden administration, Washington’s focus on the issue has intensified. Several solutions are proposed to combat climate change, such as shifting to renewable energy and cutting down the use of air conditioners.
One proposal is to avoid eating beef as meat production releases too much carbon into the atmosphere. In a recent interview with MIT Technology Review, billionaire Bill Gates agreed with the idea. He believes people in developed nations should eat 100 percent synthetic meat to combat climate change.
“I don’t think the poorest 80 countries will be eating synthetic meat… I do think all rich countries should move to 100 percent synthetic beef. You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time. Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the [behavior of] people or use regulation to totally shift the demand. So for meat in the middle-income-and-above countries, I do think it’s possible,” he said in the interview.
Synthetic meats are produced in labs by growing muscle cells in a nutrient-rich serum and developing them into muscle-like fibers. Synthetic meat advocates highlighting the ethical side of the product: no animals are killed. Scientists can also improve the meat by making it richer in vitamins, minerals, and fats, which cannot be done with conventional meat.
Regarding climate change, a 2019 study by Good Food Institute (GFI) stated that lab-based meats could cut down emissions by up to 87 percent. Also, nutrient pollution can be reduced by 94 percent, while land use will plummet by over 95 percent.
However, studies are warning that lab-grown meat will be far worse for the environment than conventional meat. In 2019, a team of researchers looked at the long-term implications of synthetic beef. They found that lab-based meats mainly emit carbon dioxide that can persist in the atmosphere for millennia.
In contrast, the methane emitted by cattle dissipates after only 12 years. It means that synthetic beef will have a more long-term and devastating impact on the climate than conventional beef.
Natural beef vs synthetic beef
Many people are also put off by the idea of synthetic meat since it does not come from a real animal. People are concerned that they will be something unnatural. Adrienne Rose Bitar, a postdoctoral associate in History at Cornell University, points out that synthetic meat sits in a gray area that drives people’s fears of zombies.
She states that the way meat is currently raised, synthetic meats do not look so unnatural.
Bitar told The Epoch Times.
“Chicken grown on a massive industrial scale has been bred to have breasts so big that they can’t even stand up… They’re bow-legged, have sores, and are fed antibiotics. That’s not natural either.”
While the debate of synthetic versus conventional beef continues, Singapore has quietly become the first country in the world to approve the sale of lab-grown meat. The product in Singapore is chicken meat manufactured by American startup Eat Just. The meat will be sold in the form of nuggets and will charge a premium price.