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Would You Eat Artificial Meat? (And We're Not Talking Tofu)

Would You Eat Artificial Meat? (And We're Not Talking Tofu)

Meat has been under attack for decades. Red meat has been blamed for a host of health problems from heart disease to obesity. Vegetarians see meat as the root of all evil. But it is not just red meat that's apparently to blame. In 2006 Environmentalists at the United Nations tied the consumption of all meats to global warming:

The 400-page report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, entitled Livestock's Long Shadow, also surveys the damage done by sheep, chickens, pigs and goats. But in almost every case, the world's 1.5 billion cattle are most to blame. Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.

That UN report fueled a push to demonize the consumption of all livestock and also inspired several groups to look for alternative sources of protein for human beings. This week we heard about two options: Artificial Meat and "Recycled" Meat. The concept for artificial meat is really just an extension of some of the science being used to grow tissue for medical applications, recycled meat is a wilder concept.

Let us first consider artificial meat. The Guardian UK reports:

According to the analysis by scientists from Oxford University and Amsterdam University, lab-grown tissue would reduce greenhouse gases by up to 96% in comparison to raising animals. The process would require between 7% and 45% less energy than the same volume of conventionally produced meat such as pork, beef, or lamb, and could be engineered to use only 1% of the land and 4% of the water associated with conventional meat.

PETA has also put a million dollars of their non-profit money where their mouth is:

Some promising steps have been made, but "in-vitro" meat is still years away from being available to the general public and, although some governments and the meat industry are looking at this process with great interest, we would like to see the process sped up. That's why PETA is now stepping in, offering $1 million ($1 for every chicken killed each hour in the US) to the first scientist to produce and bring to market commercially-successful in-vitro meat.

And while scientists work on lab-grown meats, Yahoo News is reporting that Japanese scientists are claiming a major breakthrough in what can be called "recycled meat." There is no simple way around this one, the recycled meat comes from human waste. Would you? Could you eat a burger made from a burger you (or someone else) has already eaten?  (Video content alert: In this clip there is a flash frame of a street term commonly used to describe the source material of this 'meat' - it is not meant to offend.)

However, none of this may even be needed.  A study from a German scientist has absolved the cows from the blame in the global warming controversy:

Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, carried out the study in Inner Mongolia in China. He found that grassland produced more nitrous oxide during the spring thaw when sheep or cattle have not been grazing. This is because the greenhouse gas, also known as laughing gas, is released by microbes in the soil. When the grass is long snow settles keeping the microbes warm and providing water, however when the grass is cut short by animals the ground freezes and the microbes die.

Dr Butterbach-Bahl said the study overturned assumptions about grazing goats and cattle.

"It's been generally assumed that if you increase livestock numbers you get a rise in emissions of nitrous oxide. This is not the case," he said.

If meat from live animals becomes something that governments are taxing into extinction, I will personally be rooting for the lab grown meat option to become the artificial meat of choice.

H/T Buzzfeed, Yahoo News

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