This debate is gonna get a lil’ messy. ViaI grew up in a meat-loving family, but loved to rebel. When I told my parents I wanted to go vegan, the general consensus was, “We’ll see how long that lasts.” To be honest, they were right to be skeptical. It’s hard to go completely cold turkey when you’ve been raised on a fully omnivorous diet, as Jessica Glenza attests to in their article for The Gaurdian, “Inside the impossible burger: is the eat-free mega trend as good as we think?” I am here to say, as a former vegan, no. It is not even close to as good as we think.
I won’t lie to the public. I am well aware of how unethical eating meat is, and for so many reasons. Agriculture and farming is one of the largest contributors to the greenhouse gasses in our Atmosphere, and the waste caused from industrial farming contribute to many of the ocean’s dead zone, as Glenza reports. However, when I went vegan, I watched a documentary called Cowspiracy (2014) co-directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, which also questions and criticizes the sustainability of industrial farming. You can find the documentary on Youtube for free.
With the current cry for climate change growing louder and louder, it makes sense why veganism has become not only an ethical choice, but an environmental one. In order to try an avoid factory farming, new companies like Memphis Meats, a cell-based meat manufacturer have started popping up. Memphis Meats’ website, which is littered with pictures of cows grazing happily in open fields, claims to “bring delicious and healthy meat to your table by harvesting it from cells instead of animals.” They boast that their “process will produce significantly less waste and dramatically fewer greenhouse gas emissions.” However, and analysis of cell-cultured meats’ overall energy savings by Oxford University allowed for a huge range; anywhere from 45% to as little as 7%. Not only that, but insinuating that this is somehow better for the cows in any way, is just wrong. Cell-growth is commonly encouraged by fetal bovine serum, which is harvested from calf fetuses from slaughtered cows. Not only is it far from cruelty-free, it is wildly expensive, sitting at about $1,000 dollars a gallon.
One of the pictures featured on Memphis Meats’ website. Somehow, I don’t think this is where they’re getting that serum. Via
Despite many of their similarities, the two sides of the meat industry have been at war. Many farmers have argued that cell-based meat should not even be able to call itself meat, defining meat as something “harvested in the traditional manor.” Thusly, the debate began. Cell-based supporters offer-up “clean meat,” and country boys argue that that implies their meat is “dirty.” This debate continues, covering whether or not cell-cultured meat should be regulated by the FDA, which oversees more unique, biological products, or the USDA, which oversees the OG meat industry. Here is how I side on this heated debate.
Its all pretty damn bad.
We don’t have enough statistics to prove that cell-based farming is going to make enough of a difference environmentally. I don’t think we should discredit the research, but if you’re looking to feel a little less guilty when you eat a hamburger, this isn’t the solution. Cell-based meat is taking a hands-clean approach to slaughter, allowing someone else to do the dirty work, and have them reap the benefits. If the process of making cell-based meats becomes more solidly environmentally beneficial and less unethical, I will put on the lab coat myself, but until then, whether its cell-cultured or farmed, I’m still gonna feel shitty when I eat a Big Mac. Whether its from the guilt or the cholesterol, we’ll never know (I know) ((it’s the cholesterol)).