We have had two recent reports in the Indian press about making meat in the lab: one in The Statesman on June 28, 2023, and the second one in The Hindu on July 9, 2023. They both focussed on the Indian efforts in making meat in the laboratory, rather than killing animals on the farm or in specially constructed slaughterhouses.
In fact, the making of meat in the laboratory has been going on both in the U.S. and Europe. The idea is not to kill the animal for flesh but to save it and grow its meat in the laboratory. As the article in The Statesman points out, there are several reasons why lab-cultured meat is a better option: there is zero cruelty; lab meat can be made with much less fat, no cholesterol and no saturated fats, thus healthier for the consumer; once the lab meat is available in the future, it may become cheaper than conventional meat and; lab meat will have less environmental impact.
The last point is particularly important since it is estimated that there are more than 50 billion chickens raised for meat in the world each year. That works out to about 136 million chickens killed each day worldwide. The U.S. is the third most prolific country for chicken farming. The site Rooster Haus Rescue points out that 23.3 million land animals are killed in the U.S. alone every single day. Similar numbers exist for pork and beef. All this also adds about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, affecting the environment as well.
It is against this background that making meat in the laboratory is a cleaner and better option. In 2017, the Dutch scientist Dr Mark Post created beef in his laboratory. We have progressed remarkably since then in the field of culturing meat in the lab, which is both animal and environment-friendly. In fact, the U.S. Agriculture Department has given clearance to several private firms that grow meat from animal cells in the lab. The group called PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in the U.S. has granted funds to two firms (Upside Foods, and Good Meat) that make meat in the lab, rather than by slaughtering animals. In India, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) offered a grant to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad for culturing meat in the lab from animal cells, and Drs Jyotsna Dhawan and Madhusudana Rao did so successfully. Currently, there are a few private labs in India that produce cultured meat.
How is cultured meat produced?
The firm Good Meat in the U.S. uses stem cells made from muscle and other organs of a living animal, placing these cells in Petri dishes with amino acids and carbohydrates to help these cells multiply and grow. The cells are grown in steel tanks and produced. The product is then shaped like cutlets and sausages and sold in the market. Cultured meat firms in India do likewise.