Does lab-grown meat have a smaller carbon footprint?

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Offline thedoc

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Amy Moser  asked the Naked Scientists:
You state in the podcast about the lab grown meat that it has a smaller "carbon footprint".

I question this, as someone who has grown cells in a lab and know the large amount of plasticware, chemicals, and growth factors that are needed. This does not even take into account the energy needed for the incubators, sensors, and autoclaves (to sterilize everything). Not to mention the people needed to monitor and handle the cultures. While eventually they MAY be able to grow these in suspension (hard to believe with muscle cells) and eliminate some of the plasticware, but all the other issues will remain. Considering that meat producing animals can be raised on non-arable land, replacing them with other crops may not be feasible.


What do you think?
« Last Edit: 03/10/2013 07:30:02 by _system »


Offline CliffordK

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Re: Does lab-grown meat have a smaller carbon footprint?
« Reply #1 on: 03/10/2013 09:46:11 »
Is this the podcast, Growing meat in the lab?

Certainly the demands of lab scale processing are different from industrial scale processing, and it is likely that most of the equipment in an industrial facility would be reused, and efficiency would be maximized.  It is a good point though that everything would have to be rigorously sterilized.  Plus, one might need to run an artificial heart/lung, dialysis, and some kind of artificial liver.  We can produce sugars, starches, vitamins, and etc using both organic and lab processes.  Your typical table sugar is fairly pure, I think.  Consider the complications of infection with total parenteral nutrition.  Hopefully it could be grown without bathing the "meat" with antibiotics.

Could one generate power with electrically stimulated contractions?

You are right, however, that we aren't particularly efficient at replicating the efficiency of organic processes.  Thus, improving the process efficiency would be an uphill battle.  And, much of the farmland, say in Texas, either needs irrigated (bringing in other issues), or may be best suited to the cattle industry.  Of course, most of the cattle is at least finished in a feed lot, and doesn't go directly from the range to market. 

Waste from lab grown meat could be tightly managed, hopefully avoiding the development of prions.