In India and China, consumers are eager for lab-grown meat. In the US? Not as much.
Would you eat a burger grown from animal cells rather than a whole cow? What about a plant-based burger, once researchers finally pull off a perfect imitation of the texture and taste of a meat burger?
That question, believe it or not, might be one of the most important of the century. Modern meat production involves shockingly inhumane conditions, mass use of antibiotics with worrisome public health implications, and high environmental costs. And demand for meat is expected to rise 73 percent by 2050, expanding the scale of factory farming’s horrors while putting more strain on our food system.
With all that in mind, researchers are desperately working on better alternatives to meat. Some of them have developed plant-based products — like the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Burger, Just Mayo, and Just Egg — that imitate animal products increasingly well. Some of them are working to invent cell-based products — “clean meat” — that will be, on a molecular level, identical to meat but without the slaughterhouses.