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The Relevance of Clean Meat Production in Today’s World

3 September 2020


According to the United Nations (UN), the world population will continue to grow albeit at a slower pace than before. In just 30 years from now, the human population is expected to reach 9.7 billion, and could possibly reach a peak at nearly 11 billion in year 2100 (1).

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Pedestrians crossing the Tokyo crosswalk (Source: Unsplash)

With the human population continuing to increase, it is inevitable that there will be pressure on our environment to meet the growing demands. To illustrate, Ehrlich and Holdren first proposed the IPAT equation in the early 1970s to highlight how humans can possibly damage the environment and use up its resources (2).

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IPAT Equation (Source: Author)

According to the IPAT equation, if the population were to double, so would the impact on the environment. This is because more resources such as land, water and food will be used up by the growing population, together with a depletion of natural resources, which are then detrimental and unsustainable.

Growing demand for meat with affluence

More importantly, with more people on the planet, the demand for food will increase. This is further expedited with growing affluence. As countries become more developed and affluent worldwide, the demand for meat especially has gone up. Just in China alone, the meat production increased sevenfold due to rising affluence and an average person consumes nearly 140 pounds of meat per year (3).

To substantiate, Clements and Si discovered in their journal article that people living in the richest countries dedicate 24% of their diets to meat and seafood, which takes up the largest proportion in comparison to other food (4).

This spells bad news when we consider the context of a growing population. Like how the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) explained it for us, the increasing world population and accompanying affluence creates a higher demand for meat, but also leaves limited space for livestock production expansion (5). Just looking at land space alone, approximately 30% of the world’s land surface (6) is dedicated to livestock farming, which is unsustainable if we continue to increase the usage area to meet the demand.

Costs of current meat production

Other than taking up land spaces, raising livestock to produce butchered meat for human consumption tends to use up a lot of finite resources needed for human survival. Did you know that in order to produce just one pound of beef (equivalent to approximately 0.45 kg only), a total of 1,799 gallons of water has to be used (7)? That’s close to 7,000 litres of water!

To put things into perspective, the reason why losing close to 7,000 litres of water to just one pound of beef is such a huge deal is because the world is currently facing a global water crisis. Globally, 844 million people lack access to clean water, which affects both their livelihoods and health especially when they are exposed to dirty water (8). Furthermore, a BBC article written by Smedley highlighted that with climate change and intensive use of water, many of the world’s freshwater sources are being drained faster than they are being replenished, exacerbating the water crisis (9).

These are not the only consequences of current meat production. As I have mentioned about climate change in the previous point, you will be surprised to find out that livestock farming also contributes quite a bit to greenhouse gas emissions on this planet. The livestock sector accounts for 14.5% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, mostly comprising methane and nitrous oxide (10). Methane is mainly produced by enteric fermentation and manure storage, while nitrous oxide is emitted from manure storage and the use of fertilisers.

What are the significances of methane and nitrous oxide then? Comparing it with carbon dioxide (the greenhouse gas we are all familiar with), methane can result in an effect on global warming 28 times higher, while nitrous oxide has a global warming potential of 265 times higher (10)! Furthermore, each livestock commodity is capable of producing huge amounts of greenhouse gases, measured in million tonnes CO2 equivalent (the standard unit used to account for global warming potential).

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Global emission intensities by commodities (Source: Author)

If this continues, it is undeniable that the world will continue down an irreversible path towards worsening climate change.

Moving away from the topic of climate change, let’s talk about the health impacts of butchered meat from livestock farming. Due to the wide use of antibiotics on animals by farmers and the food industry to prevent diseases, it might have contributed to antibiotic resistance amongst humans. In fact, World Health Organisation (WHO) released an article in their newsroom stating that “approximately 80% of total consumption of medically important antibiotics is in the animal sector” (11). We hear it often when we go to clinics too — antibiotic resistance is not favourable for our body, especially when it’s the harmful bacterias that developed a strong resistance to the treatment. Hence, if the bacterias in these animals are antibiotic-resistant, they might affect the population’s health once consumed. In fact, some antimicrobial-resistant infections experienced by humans can even lead to fatality due to the lack of viable treatments (12).

Last but not least, we cannot deny the cruelty behind butchered meat. Before the animals are slaughtered and sent for human consumption, they are often housed in filthy and cramped spaces to save costs and maximise output (13). That’s not all to their sufferings. Genetic selection is often utilised to ensure the animals achieve speedy growth and gain “extra meat”. Take chickens for example — they are currently four times bigger than the ones in the 1950s (14), and many of them find it difficult to support the weight of their bodies. Hence, they are often crippled and stuck to one location. As noted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a staff writer for The New Yorker (14) once visited a chicken farm and was both astonished and appalled by the living conditions of the chickens. They lived in near-total darkness, with close to zero ability to move around. Furthermore, they usually have to live amongst their feces and in the intense stench of ammonia, which results in serious health problems.

After listing the costs of current meat production, you must be wondering, “So what now? Do I have to stop eating meat entirely?”. Of course, it will be challenging to eliminate meat entirely from our diets to avoid all the consequences previously discussed. However, there is actually a way we can reduce and even steer clear from the harmful impacts of consuming meat, while still including them in our everyday meals.

“Is that even possible?”, you may ask, but it sure is!

Clean meat production

Clean meat production is another way for us to obtain meat without resulting in the negative impacts on the planet, our health and the animals’ welfare. But what exactly is clean meat?

Clean meat is meat that is grown in cell culture, rather than inside of animals. Hence, it does not require any slaughtering of animals, and it is much “cleaner” in terms of sanitation and also sustainability. Stem cells are also obtained from animals by a harmless biopsy, and eventually cultivated in vitro to grow muscle fibers.

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Simplified clean meat production process (Source: Author)

This means no animals need to be nurtured on farmlands for such meat production, equating to lesser land space usage for livestock farming, water loss, greenhouse gas emissions and risks of contracting anti-microbial resistance. Most importantly, no animals are harmed or tortured in this process.

Sounds good and wondering where you can then get clean meat from? Look no further as Gaia Foods is here to answer this question for you.

Gaia Foods — your source of clean meat

Gaia Foods is Southeast Asia’s first clean red meat company, producing their meat using stem cell technology. After collecting stem cells from mainly the skeletal muscles of cows and pigs, they proliferate and differentiate the cells in the bioreactor to grow the cells further into myofibers. Once that is done, meat that fits the Western palates will be formed, such as beef or pork sausages and patties.

However, given the current consumption habit, where Asian consumers are responsible for more than 40% of the red meat consumed in the world, Gaia Foods believes that it is important to accommodate the Asian palates too. Hence, they take one step further by incorporating scaffolding technology to form the full structures of meat for Asians’ preferences. This means pork belly, pork collars… you name it! This gives Gaia Foods an edge over its competitors, and the only company thus far in the industry landscape that is able to provide red meat that fits both the Western and Asian palates in the region.

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Steak suited for consumption (Source: Unsplash)

What’s even more impressive are the proprietary scaffolding technology and cell culture media it possesses. Additionally, only non-GMO cells are utilised in their processes to ensure only clean and natural meat for consumption.

We hope this article has presented to you a clear overview of the relevance of clean meat production in today’s world, and how Gaia Foods can help you take the step forward in consuming clean meat for your guilt-free diet.

Remember to follow this page as we will continue to share more on Gaia Foods and its technology over a series of articles, and how it will be increasingly relevant and important for both the SEA region and our planet Earth.

This article was contributed by knowledge partner: