- Can I just jump right in?
(tense instrumental music) All right, here's the moment of truth, y'all.
Looks like chicken, smells like chicken.
(record scratches) What up, world?
Myles Bess here, journalist, host, and a big fan of chicken tacos.
But this isn't your ordinary chicken because it was grown in a lab in a giant steel vat.
We got a meat problem, y'all.
We raise billions of animals every year, and for many of them, the conditions are pretty terrible.
And the whole process is just a big contributor to climate change.
It's responsible for over 14% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
That's where lab-grown meat comes in.
Companies are racing to see who can solve these problems while still satisfying our inner carnivore, but it's an open question if they can deliver and if it'll taste good enough to make me give up real meat.
So today we're asking, is lab-grown meat the answer to our meat eating problems?
(upbeat music) So here's the deal, I'm team meat all the way.
Wings, burgers, ribs, barbecue you name it, I love it.
I would eat my weight in it if I could.
But the more I think about it, you know, all the cows, all the pigs, all the chickens that are killed just so I can enjoy their delicious flesh, it doesn't feel good, I'm not gonna lie.
So when lab-grown meat came along, I was like, oh, I'm definitely interested in this.
Let's try it.
Lucky for me, there's a company right in my backyard in Alameda, California called Eat Just.
They're a food technology company working on a bunch of things, one of which is lab-grown chicken.
Side note, the preferred industry term is cultured meat or cultivated meat, but I'm gonna keep calling it lab-grown meat because nobody tells me what to do.
Anyway, I got to sit down with Sophia, a scientist at Eat Just to break it all down for me.
And I mean, let's just jump right in.
So can you kinda just walk me through the process, like, take me from cell to plate.
Give me the whole rundown overview of how that works.
- So instead of gathering our meat from a whole animal, what we can do is grow that meat in the lab starting from the constituent components.
So mainly, the cells.
We start from a small tissue biopsy from the animal.
From that, we can isolate individual cells.
So once we have those cell lines that meet our screening parameters, we immerse them into this nutrient broth, and that gives them all the nourishment that they need to grow and to survive.
And they're housed in what's called the bioreactor.
The bioreactor controls all of the environmental conditions, again, to facilitate and promote their growth.
So as the cells grow in the bioreactor, they get to larger and larger numbers.
We started from one, we get a million, we get a billion, and from there on.
And we can really achieve almost an infinite number of cells from this process.
We can separate the cells from that media, and those cells are then collected, formed into a 3D shape that's more familiar to meat, and that's what you eat on the plate.
- And that was kind of my next question.
Do you think that we'll always look at it as like, oh, this is just another alternative as opposed to giving it kind of equal weight to meat, I guess is what I'm trying to ask?
- Definitely, yeah.
But I think a lot of people consume meat sometimes without thinking of where it came from.
They just consume it.
So I think if we can create something that fills in the gaps there, I don't think they'll think twice necessarily about where that's coming from.
Our product is gonna be the same.
It is meat.
- Yeah All of that sounded pretty wild to me.
I really wanted to see what this chicken looked like outside of the vat.
So the good folks at Eat Just took me into their test kitchen.
FYI, Eat Just is not a sponsor of this video.
They fired up some chicken, and it passed the eye test, I mean, for me at least.
They fried it up like chicken, they grilled it up like chicken.
I mean, look at those little grill marks.
All right, we got our chicken.
- Looks good.
- So that's our chicken.
- It looks identical to chicken.
I'm excited to eat this.
(upbeat music) They've actually been selling their chicken in Singapore since December of 2020.
And right now, that's the only place in the world where lab-grown meat is approved to be sold, but that's gonna change soon.
The Food and Drug Administration here in the US issued a statement saying that lab-grown chicken from another Bay Area company is safe to eat.
Their chicken is supposed to hit restaurants this year, and it's just a matter of time before the floodgates open and lab-grown meat is gonna be in grocery stores sitting next to, I mean, what do we call it?
Traditional meat, good old-fashioned meat, classic meat, de facto meat?
There are over 150 companies around the world, and each one is trying to create the perfect burger, or Wagyu beef, or blue fin tuna.
We're talking a whole new global food industry worth billions.
But what I'm interested in is what lab-grown meat can mean for the environment because we got ourselves a little culinary conundrum on our hands, folks.
The world's population is gonna be close to 10 billion people by 2050, which means we're gonna have to produce something like 50% more food than we do now to feed everyone.
So that means we're gonna need to pump out even more meat.
Now you might say, "But, Myles, we can all go vegan.
We can all dine on legumes, and soy, and quinoa."
(Myles laughs) Not gonna happen.
Did you know that Americans eat more than 220 pounds of meat per person per year?
That's two and a half Quarter Pounders a day every day.
Now, I'm more of a McNugget man myself, but I digress.
Producing all this meat has problems.
Problem number one, land use and carbon dioxide.
Check this out, the Earth's surface is mostly water, and only a fraction of the land can be used to grow food.
And most of that land is either grazing land for animals or land used to grow food to feed the animals.
We're actually cutting down forests to make more space so we can eat more meat, and that's a problem because trees capture CO2 which you probably know is a big contributor to climate change.
So the more we eat meat, the fewer trees grow and more CO2 escapes into the atmosphere.
An example of this is happening in Brazil where for decades, the beef industry has been causing deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
So over time, it's absorbing less and less CO2.
Problem number two, fresh water.
Raising animals for meat takes a lot of fresh water, and that's a finite resource.
That means we can run out.
Look at how much water it takes to produce just one pound of beef and one pound of pork.
Now compare that to a non-meat protein source like soybeans.
Pound for pound, meat's just really inefficient water-wise.
Problem number three, greenhouse gases coming from the animals themselves.
On the Earth right now, there are around 20 billion chickens, one and a half billion cattle, and about a billion pigs being raised for food.
If you added them all up, they'd weigh more than humans and all other wild animals combined.
And they're constantly emitting carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, both of which contribute to climate change.
And cattle, man, cattle are the worst because, well, cow burps.
(burp erupts) Excuse me.
Each year, a single cow will belch about 220 pounds of methane which doesn't stay in the atmosphere as long as CO2, but is way worse when it comes to warming the environment.
We can't win.
Now, take all these problems with meat and compare them to meat grown in a lab.
You're not raising animals on a bunch of land that are suckin' up water and spewing out polluting gases.
You're being super efficient, only growing the stuff that you're gonna eat so there's less waste.
And of course, one of the biggest wins, animals aren't suffering and dying so we can eat.
Sounds perfect, right?
Whoa, whoa, whoa.
Pump your brakes.
(laughs) One of the biggest selling points of lab-grown meat is that you don't have to kill animals.
But remember how lab-grown meat needs to grow in a nutrient broth?
Well, turns out there's one ingredient that's really good at making those cells grow, and it most commonly comes from drum roll, please.
(snare drum rolling) The blood of dead baby cows.
It's, like, sad and gross at the same time.
It's called fetal bovine serum, and it's been used for decades in medicine to make cells grow.
Now, the good news is that you can make nutrient broths without any kind of animal serum.
It's just a newer approach.
And as more and more companies get into the lab-grown meat game, more are ditching animal serums altogether.
Now, let's talk about those bioreactors.
They require a lot of electricity.
If that power is coming from renewable sources like wind or solar, great, not a problem.
But that's easier to do if you're a startup making small amounts of lab-grown meat.
Remember, this entire industry is, like, 10 years old max.
So what happens when they have to scale up and need bigger tanks to produce more meat?
They're gonna need a lot more power, and that's gonna make it harder to get it all from renewable sources.
That might mean getting power from a power plant somewhere burning fossil fuels and releasing CO2 into the atmosphere which again, means contributing to climate change.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
If lab-grown meat ever wants to take down or even compete with traditional meat, it's gonna have to taste good.
And that, my friends, brings us back to the chicken taco.
(tense instrumental music) (upbeat music) Wow.
That's really good.
It's probably, like, the closest I've had to chicken.
- For sure.
- Like, it's definitely the closest.
I feel like I can still kind of tell the difference, just, like, a smidge.
- For sure.
- But it's definitely the closest to the mouth feel that I've had with chicken from any other like satay, or tofu, or anything.
It's way, miles ahead of all that.
And also, they had it prepared by a chef who's been cookin' for decades.
So obviously, it was gonna be delicious, but if I made it at home, would it taste the same?
We'll have to wait and see.
(laughs) But what do y'all think?
Would you ever eat meat grown in a lab?
Let us know in the comments below.