By the time the 22nd century arrives, presuming that the world still exists – which is doubtful — the food will be entirely different.
Most of the agricultural land will have been converted to buildings, so crops will not be grown naturally any more. There will be no wild birds left and no fish in the ocean. Since the bees and other pollinators are all dying out as I write, there will be no flowers or fruit. There will be no greens to feed meat animals so there will be much fewer or none. So what will we be eating? We had better start experimenting on alternatives now.
For those who continue to be non- vegetarians, the experiment on culturing meat has been successful and an entire hamburger has been made of cultured meat cells. Unfortunately, it costs $ 300,000, but as the technology becomes available this will be a common thing 10 years from now. You can finally chew on an animal without the guilt. McDonalds can finally stop pretending that it serves real food from real animals and unashamedly proclaim that they serve in vitrio cultured meat — without any of the 700 chemicals they now put in. In fact, if I were in the management team of that company I would probably pay for the research in order to speed up the process.
Here&’s one vision of the future of meat: we manufacture it from stem cells in giant “ bioreactors”. The cells come from goats, pigs, cows and chickens that live in the field outside the village meat factory, where technicians sometimes poke them with a needle to get their cells.
A paper has been published in Trends in Biotechnology magazine by Cor van der Weele and Johannes Tramper, a pair of Dutch researchers from the University of Wageningen who are concerned about what modern meat production does to the planet and to the animals themselves. The answer to both concerns may be to grow synthetic meat locally on a small scale.
Instead of raising pigs and killing them in slaughterhouses, they can act as living cell banks.
Everyone from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to Bill Gates has declared meat unsustainable. Gates has invested in Beyond Meat, a Columbia, Missouri, start- up that has made faux chicken strips good enough to fool food critics. Beyond Meat makes its product from soy and amaranth, applying a texturising process to give it the fibrous feel of chicken breast.
Another company in Columbia, Modern Meadow, Cor van der Weele and Johannes Tramper, a pair of Dutch researchers from the University of Wageningen who are concerned about what modern meat production does to the planet and to the animals themselves. The answer to both concerns may be to grow synthetic meat locally on a small scale.
is trying to synthesise meat from animal muscle cells, using tissue engineering techniques developed originally to regenerate human organs.
It is partially funded by Peter Thiel, co- founder of PayPal.
Google co- founder Sergey Brin is bankrolling the world&’s first cultured beefburger, which was created last year by Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
“ Here, all of a sudden, we get a glimpse of a possible world in which we can have it all: meat, the end of animal suffering, the company of animals and simple technology close to our homes,” van der Weele wrote.
In the Dutch researchers’ scheme, the pig&’s
stem cells, which are capable of replicating themselves many times, would pass through a chain of progressively larger flasks until they had multiplied enough to fill the largest bioreactor. An enzyme would then be added to make the cells clump together and settle to the bottom. That slurry would be pressed into a cake, put through a grinder and divided into patties. It would take about a month to make each batch. A single bioreactor, Tramper calculates, could supply meat to 2,500 people.
Now a pair of young Indian bioengineers in the USA are trying to produce the first glass of artificial milk with the help of genetically engineered yeast. I suppose that makes a change from the mixture of oil, soap, pond water, paint, urea and sugar that passes for milk in India.
But seriously, it would be better to drink milk made in a lab that is hygienic and sterilised rather than drink it from cows and buffaloes that now
have leukaemia, brucellosis, sepsis, ketosis and a myriad other communicable diseases. It would free up land to grow human food on, and it would stop the suffering of millions of animals.
Perumal Gandhi and Ryan Pandya are scientists in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and they have formed a company called Muufri ( pronounced Moo Free). They are working with yeast cultures that will have the formulae of real milk. These yeast cultures will be churning out real milk proteins and it will retain the taste and nutritional benefits of cow milk. That will distinguish it from soy- and almondbased alternatives.
Both the founders are vegans who view the livestock industry&’s practices as inhumane. The cows in a modern dairy, they argue, live in crowded barns. Their horns are removed to keep them from injuring themselves or farm workers, their tails are docked so that workers won’t get a faeces- laden smack in the face, and they’re given growth hormones and antibiotics. They are artificially
manipulated to have painfully large udders that reach the floor. They are artificially inseminated every year so they’ll keep producing milk — and then, as soon as they give birth, their calves are killed, to make the milk available for humans. As soon as their milk production stops, they are killed as well.
“ If we want the world to change its diet from a product that isn’t sustainable to something that is, it has to be identical ( to), or better than the original product,” Gandhi says. “ The world will not switch from milk from a cow to the plantbased milks. But if our cow- less milk is identical and priced right, they might.” The impact of milk production on global warming is huge. Dairy production is responsible for roughly three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions each year, according to the FAO, because cows belch methane.
Agricultural scientists are now at work trying to invent a cow that will not emit methane. But rather than re- engineer an entire suffering animal for its milk and meat, would it not be more
sensible and efficient to invent the meat and milk by itself? Making milk is much simpler than growing meat. Muufri milk will contain only those essential proteins, fats, minerals and sugars.
Pandya and Gandhi&’s plan is to insert DNA sequences from cattle into yeast cells, grow the cultures at a controlled temperature and the right concentrations, and harvest milk proteins after a few days. The process is extremely safe: itss the same one used to manufacture insulin and other medicines.
Although the proteins in Muufri milk come from yeast, the fats come from vegetables and are engineered at the molecular level to replicate the structure and flavour of milk fats. Minerals like calcium and potassium and sugars are separately added to the mix. Once the composition is finetuned, the ingredients emulsify naturally into milk.
Pandya and Gandhi are aiming to make milk healthier. The team is experimenting with sugars other than lactose, which 65 per cent adults cannot digest. And it has engineered a more healthful, unsaturated fat that retains the distinct flavour of dairy.
Muufri, which began lab trials in May 2014, received two million dollars in seed money from Horizons Ventures, a Hong Kong- based investment firm that is responsible for start- ups like Siri, Spotify and Facebook. Muufri hopes to have it on the shelves by 2017. The problem will probably be the price, to begin with.
Muufri is not the only team attempting to create cow- less dairy products. Impossible Foods, started by a Stanford University professor, focuses on animal- free meat but it&’s also working on cowless cheese. It has $ 75 million in financial backing. Real Vegan Cheese is run on crowdsourced funding by bioengineers in Oakland, California.
To join the animal welfare movement contact [email protected], www. peopleforanimalsindia.org