The future of food is not something we like to think about often, but it really is an important topic considering that our Canadian food industry is not up to date with what consumers want and need.
For starters, world-renowned chef and author Anthony Bourdain has been very open with his feelings about synthetic meat.
“I look at food as being something that should be pleasurable first. So the idea of creating synthetic meat… it seems antithetical to everything I believe in which is to say I see it as the enemy,” he said on ‘The Tech Insider.’
So, what exactly is synthetic meat? Well it might just be the future of our food industry. Eater.com breaks it down.
The nuts and bolts of producing synthetic meat
“The process isn’t as weird as you might think, currently the most successful method involves harvesting stem cells from cows. Stem cells are the building blocks of essentially everything, from muscles to organs. From which muscle tissue is harvested, from the live animal in what is said to be a harmless/painless procedure. The tissue is made up of muscle and fat cells which the scientist separate from one-another. What we need are the muscles, which are then dissected and cultured. Cell culturing is where a cell is removed from a plant or an animal and then put into a favorable artificial environment.”
“Usually some type of substrate that supplies essential nutrients like amino acids and carbohydrates to grow. All it takes is just one singular muscle stem cell to grow up to one-trillion muscle cells. The newly grown muscle cells merge together to form tiny mio-tubes which are then placed in a ring. The muscle cells tendency to contract frequently causes them to grow into a small strand of muscle tissue. The muscle tissue tubes are then layered together to form a hamburger shape. One muscle cell has the potential to turn into one-trillion muscle tissue strands, which is a lot of burgers.”
The details might sound a little confusing, but synthetic meat is actually a pretty simple concept.
Scientists harvest stem cells. They then grow the cells artificially in a lab. That’s it, no slaughtering, just muscle tissue harvested from the live animal, which is said to be pretty harmless and painless. The only downside, scientists say, is that the end meat product is lighter in colour and has a blander taste which is not what consumers are used to buying from their local supermarkets.
A surge in ethical farming
The World Wild Life Fund finds that beef production drives 25 per cent of global land use and forestry emissions. So, if cattle farming has such a huge environmental impact, you would think that farmers would be looking ahead to invest in more ethical, sustainable and maybe even synthetic farming practices.
Because let’s be honest, as the millennial generation gets older, the standard in which cattle and poultry is farmed is likely to evolve as well.
Let’s rewind to last year when restaurant chain Earls decided to start serving only certified humane beef on their menu.
This simple menu change created a huge outcry from Canadian beef suppliers.
CKNW’s Simi Sara spoke with Bob Lowe, Chair of The Alberta Beef Producers.
“I think first thing we have to understand, the certified humane standard that Earls is sourcing is a verification program out of the United States, very small one. They actually have a stamp that says certified humane… There is absolutely nothing there that we aren’t already doing as beef producers all across Canada.”
So, if Canada can’t produce enough ethically raised beef, are we going to see a demand for more synthetically grown options?
Let’s check back in with Chef Anthony Bourdain.
“Anytime you discuss food as a sustenance first, without any consideration for happiness, joy, and magic even. We waste a lot of meat in this country, there are plenty of cuts of meat of the animal that we throw away and do not use and you can make wonderful things out of those products. I think we should be doing that long before we start thinking about growing meat like product in the lab.”
It doesn’t sound like he would be trying it anytime soon.