Beef… but without the cow?
Producing 1kg of ground beef isn’t easy. Ecological Integrity: Integrating Environment, Conservation and Health, edited by ‘Dr. David Pimentel’ estimates that it requires;
- 100kg of hay
- 4kg of grain
- Total of 100,000L of water (including grain/hay requirements)
Meanwhile the meat industry contributes to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions – most notably the toxic gas methane. (We have plans to BioHack this too! Researchers across the globe have been hard at work to separate protein production from the constant suffering of our mammalian brethren, artificially culturing flesh with a realistic texture and taste.
Lab-grown meat has been often touted in the media as the future of the meat industry. However, beyond the challenges faced by entrepreneurs attempting to create a viable product – there is an additional serious price tag that is not factored into the final cost. This is the production of Foetal Bovine Serum, or FBS.
What is Foetal Bovine Serum? How is it currently extracted?
“Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is a common component of animal cell culture media. It is harvested from bovine fetuses taken from pregnant cows during slaughter. FBS is commonly harvested by means of a cardiac puncture without any form of anaesthesia. Fetuses are probably exposed to pain and/or discomfort, so the current practice of fetal blood harvesting is inhumane. Apart from moral concerns, several scientific and technical problems exist with regard to the use of FBS in cell culture. Efforts should be made to reduce the use of FBS or, preferably, to replace it with synthetic alternatives.”
The use of foetal bovine serum: ethical or scientific problem? Jochems (2002)
How would Synthetic FBS improve international food security?
Lab-grown meat is not the first use scientists have had for FBS, however the potential size of this new industry promises an exponential increase in demand. The protein/energy efficiency of beef and chicken makes it a natural choice of spending for the expanding international middle class. Unfortunately, a worldwide increase in purchasing power will not alleviate the pressure on arable land to keep up with demand.
Ethical, cultured meat offers a promising alternative – however only if the unnecessarily cruel FBS extraction step can be replaced with a synthetic alternative. Successfully achieving this would allow humanity to retain it’s omnivorous lifestyle without the endless slaughter of livestock.
If you’re interested in learning more about Lab-Grown Meat or want to get involved in our research, contact Meow-Ludo using the following form!