The role of cultivated meat in tackling environmental degradation

Contributed by Sreeram Murugaiyen, Gen-Z Advisor at Aleph Farms. This blog is a copy of Sreeram’s class speech at the Francis Douglas Memorial College in March 2020.

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12 years…..According to the United Nations, 12 years is all the time we have left to change to avoid the worst consequences of Global Warming. The news and media have been filled with stories of extreme storms and devastating wildfires. Now the countries and companies around the world are being encouraged to make changes to be more Sustainable. Recently NZ has passed a Zero Carbon Bill. The purpose of this bill is to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions. One of the chief contributors to Climate Change and Environmental Degradation is Meat Production.

Industrial Meat production is responsible for 70% of the meat today. It uses over 80% of the worlds habitable land and 30% of the freshwater supply. In total, meat production demands more than 2,000 trillion tonnes of water every year, that is 63 million litres every second. The Amazon jungle is being cleared to make grazing space, this can release approximately 50 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. Our current meat industry contributes to 18% of the human-made greenhouse gasses, which is more than all of the transportation industry combined.

The meat that causes the greatest problem is beef. 30kgs of Greenhouse Gases are released for every 100 grams of meat. This is mainly due to methane gas. Methane has 25 times the global warming potential than the equivalent amount of CO2. Greenhouse gases are major contributors to climate change. Some observable effects are loss of sea ice in the Arctic, Sea level rise and more intense heat waves. We are soon going to reach a breaking point, where if we continue to consume meat the way we are, we won’t have enough natural resources to keep up with the demand. By 2050, the Earth’s population is set to pass 9 billion, and the meat demand is predicted to be 70% higher. Feeding that number with the current form of meat production is vastly inefficient.

One solution to this problem is to reduce the amount of meat we consume. Many people won’t like this, as Meat is an important part of their social lives. However, there is another more socially acceptable solution, in the form of Cultivated Meat. According to a study published by the American Chemical Society, Cultivated Meat uses around 45% less energy, releases 96% less Greenhouse Gases, uses 99% less land and consumes 96% less water. But it has 100% of the same nutritional value. Rather than changing our lifestyle, Cultivated meat allows people to consume all the meat they want, without the environmental consequences, slaughtered meat brings.

Approximately one month ago, I started getting involved in a project launched by one of the most discussed companies today. I joined a global advisory board which is solely constituted by Generation-Z kids. The ‘Z-Board’ as we call it, was launched by an Israeli food company named Aleph Farms. The purpose of the “Z-Board” is to make sure that the vision of the company aligns with future consumers. Aleph has received many headlines through the past 1.5 years, was the first company to grow steaks directly from the cells of a single cow, and recently was the first to produce meat on the international space station. The cells were harvested on Earth and then grown into muscle by a 3D Bioprinter. This experiment proves Slaughter-free or Cultivated meat can be produced anywhere, in any conditions and without depending on the availability of land.

Our changing planet enforces us, as individuals and as economies, to remove the silos we have built over time and be part of a movement that leads a thoughtful debate around climate change, around food security and around the health of our beings. Cultivated meat represents an integrated solution, to one of the most impactful industries worldwide on those very subjects. This solution is promised to overcome some of the most fundamental challenges we are facing as a society today.

We have the right to be provided with food that is delicious, but at the same time, we share the responsibility to our planet, to the well-being of our society and to the animals welfare.

Sreeram is a 16 year-old high-school student who developed a greenhouse cover made from recycled plastic water bottles, and has won together with a group of students in the first prize in their division at the international Future Problem Solving conference. He was first introduced to the topic of Cultivated Meat when Mark Post came out with the cell burger back in 2013.

He supports cultivated meat because it simultaneously solves world hunger, our resource sustainability problem, combats animal methane emissions and animal suffering. He strongly feels that the current way we are feeding people is very inefficient and hopes there will be solutions to this problem. He’s been raising awareness and starting conversations in his school: speaking infront of the whole senior school and talked about it for speech finals. Has done numerous projects in his school on cultivated meat.

Aleph Farms paves a new way forward as a pioneer in cellular agriculture, passionately cultivating delicious, real beef steaks from the cells of cows.