“Clean Meat” by Paul Shapiro: Exploring the Future of Food

What is clean meat? And how might it change our world? Today on ModVegan, I’m reviewing Paul Shapiro’s new book, Clean Meat. Clean Meat is a fascinating overview of the rise of cellular agriculture. In his book, Shaprio discusses a wide variety of cellular ag companies, including Memphis Meats, Hampton Creek, Supermeat, Spiber, Bolt and Modern Meadow.

The Promise of Cellular Agriculture

In a world with a growing population and increasing demand on resources, whole animal agriculture makes little sense. Animal meat is incredibly inefficient in terms of resources required. Of course, we all remember in-vitro meat was initially astronomically expensive (the first clean meat burger cost over $330,000 USD!). Thankfully, clean meat innovators are confident costs can be reduced quickly once these products are being produced at scale. Ultimately, due to the power of exponential growth and new innovations by companies like Hampton Creek, it’s becoming easier and less expensive to produce clean meat.

While innovation certainly doesn’t come cheap, it definitely beats the cost of stagnation. Traditional animal agriculture constantly runs up against the bounds of physics. It’s extremely difficult to raise animals in an efficient way. As we transfer energy from plants to animals, and then to us – there is considerable energy lost. Between diseased animals that require antibiotics, groundwater contaminationtoxic emissions and other undesirable waste products, the costs of failing to find new solutions is high. Meanwhile, on the other hand, cellular agriculture offers us the ability to produce exactly what we want with maximum efficiency.

By growing exactly what we need, we can avoid the challenge of finding ways to dispose of waste products like bone, skin and hair. For example, even valuable animal byproducts, like leather, are extremely wasteful. Every year, many hides are discarded because of insect bites, scratches and other damage that renders them unusable. New leather manufacturing processes from the likes of Modern Meadow can help solve this problem through creating uniform materials that require fewer toxic chemicals  can solve this problem  which is one of the most lucrative animal products, is incredibly No more growing entire animals in order to obtain a single product.

Beyond the Clean Meat Revolution

The cellular agriculture revolution won’t stop at meat. Shapiro examines how cellular agriculture could have a tremendous impact on the way we grow a multitude of other products, including milk, eggs, leather, and silk – just to name a few.

The future of clean meat is incredibly exciting. I’m sure many wonder if the population is ready for such a tremendous change. But, as Shapiro points out in Clean Meat, the people who express the greatest interest in shifting to clean meat are actually the heaviest meat consumers. That was something I didn’t quite expect! The group least interested in clean protein? Vegans and vegetarians.

It’s a shame that most vegans aren’t terribly interested in clean meat. But that’s okay. Most people aren’t vegan anyway. Thankfully, that’s something that Shapiro recognized in writing his book. Much as I want to see a vegan world, I also recognize that most people will not go vegan without a compelling reason that extends beyond altruism. If we want to see an exponential change in the way people treat animals, economic incentives will play a vital role. If cellular agriculture allows companies to make more money while feeding people more safely, sustainably and satisfyingly – I don’t see how it can lose. I’m confident future generations will look back on factory farming in the early 21st century and wonder how we managed to feed and clothe our population with such primitive technology.

What do you think? Join the conversation!

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