Cellular Meats Are Less Ecologically Sustainable Than Plant Foods (and May Not Even Be Safe)
A Meat and Dairy Industries Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM John Sanbonmatsu, Ph.D., CleanMeat-Hoax.com
October 2020

Read more at Clean Meat Hoax Articles

Energy and resource requirements of synthesizing flesh in high-technology laboratories are still far higher than for plant-based food products.

One of the vaunted selling points of laboratory or cellular meats is that they are more ecologically sustainable than meats obtained from the flesh of slaughtered animals. However, this may not be true: at least one report has "found that in some circumstance and over the very long term, the manufacture of lab meat can result in more warming" than meat from living animals.1 Even under the most optimistic, best-case projections of the Clean Meat lobby, the energy and resource requirements of synthesizing flesh in high-technology laboratories are still far higher than for plant-based food products. “Lab meat doesn’t solve anything from an environmental perspective, since the energy emissions are so high," according to Marco Springmann, a senior environmental researcher at the University of Oxford.2 Then why is the lab meat lobby misleading the public into believing that laboratory meats represent "the solution" to the problems of animal agriculture?

The main problem with pitching "clean" meat as an ecologically sustainable alternative to conventional meat--without any ethical critique of the violence inherent in the latter--is that it makes the cellular meat industry itself vulnerable to counter-claims that animal agriculture can be made just as sustainable (or more so) than lab-grown meats. We are already seeing animal agribusiness make just such claims.3

Sustainability concerns aside, it is even unclear whether this new technology can be rendered safe. A recent analysis by senior researchers at the Center for Food Safety raises unsettling questions about an untried and untested technology based on growing living animal tissue in giant vats: "Candidate topics for research include the safety of ingesting rapidly growing genetically-modified cell lines, as these lines exhibit the characteristics of a cancerous cell which include overgrowth of cells not attributed to the original characteristics of a population of cultured primary cells. If lab-cultured 'meat' enters the market, there are several human health concerns associated with this new production method, specifically that these genetically-modified cell lines could exhibit the characteristics of a cancerous cell."4

Unethical Research and Development

Finally, in addition to making exaggerated claims of ecological sustainability and health, the cellular meat industry has been involved in dubious ethical practices, particularly around the use of Fetal Bovine Serum (BFS), which in some cases is still being used as a growth medium for cellular meat R&D. As Madison Suseland observes, the process for extracting this highly valued commercial product is grotesque and cruel:

"...[I]f a cow is found to be pregnant when she reaches the slaughter house, her unborn fetus can be removed, which automatically begins the process of asphyxiation and slowly kills the fetus. As it is dying, a needle is inserted into the fetus’ heart to extract the blood, which is then made into FBS. To be eligible for this procedure, the fetus must be at least 3 months old in order for their heart to be strong enough to puncture. This removal process is undoubtedly painful for the slowly dying fetus and is labeled as animal cruelty by many who are aware of the proceedings."5

The fact that companies developing cellular technologies have thought nothing of using such an unethically-derived animal commodity as BFS raises troubling questions about how or indeed whether such companies may be held morally accountable for their products in future.


  1. Cultured lab meat may make climate change worse.
  2. As the lab-grown meat industry grows, scientists debate if it could exacerbate climate change.
  3. "There is an abundance of work that demonstrates that agroecological farming systems are both sustainable and viable at scale," and therefore no less sustainable than cellular meats, according to Robert Verkek of ANH Consultancy. Agroecological farming, not cultured meat, is key to a sustainable future, says campaigner.
  4. Jaydee Hanson and Julia Ranney, "Is Lab-Grown Meat Healthy and Safe To Consume?" One Green Planet Food (Sept. 2, 2020).
  5. Madison Suseland, "Culture Meat: Beneficial in Theory, Detrimental in Practice," The Suffolk Journal, Oct. 23, 2019.

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