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The Danger of Lab-Grown Meat

As a proud Missouri Farm and Ranch family, I feel I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk about lab-grown meat.  Now, to me, there is nothing better than being able to eat fresh, high-quality beef that we have ethically raised.  We take pride in our cattle herd.  We know the background of each and every bull, cow, and calf.  We share a connection to the land and to our heritage as cattle producers.  It can sometimes be hard to fight so hard for agriculture when opposition and misinformation meet you at every step.  America needs us more now than ever, not just for food production but as a reminder that we are just 2 generations shy of remembering where our food truly comes from.   I am disappointed that the growth and sale of lab-based meat was passed by the Food and Drug Administration in June of this year and hope American consumers resonate.  

Meat production is an essential resource in this country.  According to the USDA, the United States is the single largest cattle producer in the world as well as the largest in meat consumption for beef.  The beef industry provides jobs and income for millions of people involved in various stages of production, including cattle ranching, meat processing, distribution, and retail. The industry contributes billions of dollars to the economy each year, supporting rural communities and agricultural sectors.  When you purchase beef from a farm family like mine, you are directly impacting multiple small businesses in communities just like yours!  

What is Lab-grown meat?

An industry that is well-established and proudly stands on its own feet, why create an unnecessary food product?  Lab-grown meat is a cultured meat product or cell-based meat product created through cellular agriculture.  It is created by cultivating animal cells in a laboratory setting rather than raising and slaughtering traditional meat. The process involves taking a small sample of animal cells, usually muscle cells, and placing them in a nutrient-rich culture control that allows the cells to mutate and grow into muscle tissue. 

There are 4 steps to create lab-grown meat:

  1. Cell Isolation: A small biopsy is taken from the muscle cells of real meat. 
  2. Cell Culturing: The extracted muscle cells are placed in a controlled environment that contains essential nutrients like amino acids, sugars, vitamins, and minerals, allowing the cells to grow and multiply.
  3. Tissue Formation: Over time, the muscle cells start to organize and form muscle tissue. This tissue is structured and grows similarly to conventional meat.
  4. Harvesting: Once the lab-grown muscle tissue has reached the desired size, it is harvested, processed, and assembled into meat products. 

Cell-cultivated meat is dangerous and costly.  Not only are we completely unaware of any long-term health impact this “meat” may have but the production process alone is extremely expensive.  The research and specialization alone for creating this lab-based meat creates such a high cost that this simply not sustainable to meet the demands of the United States food supply chain.  Animal culture cells are far more difficult to grow than bacterial cells, meaning the success rate is much lower.  These animal cells live completely off a pharmaceutical “soup” mixture. 

Given the push in the last several years regarding GMO and organic, I don’t know about you but I don’t want a pharmaceutical-grade soup mixture ever entering my body.   And what about the mutation process, do we truly know that this mutation is even truly an edible product for humans? I don’t need my steak to be “assembled”. My beef is fed, slaughtered, and cut to my specification for a steak. Mother nature assembles it for me.

Let’s talk about the environmental impact lab-grown meat creates.  Research is beginning to show the carbon emissions and greenhouse gases needed to fulfill both the lab-grown meat and the pharmaceutical food needed to supply the “meat” would create a much larger impact than that of the current cattle production cycle.  Read that again, lab-grown meat is NOT a sustainable environmental practice.  The production facilities alone release an estimated 4 to 25 times more carbon dioxide than conventional farming practices.  

Beef Cattle Production

Cattle and beef production is essential to maintain a healthy and cost-effective food system.  Beef contains a whopping 22 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving and one of the biggest benefits of eating beef is the iron content, decreasing the overall risk of anemia.  Beef is also high in vitamin B12 which is not available in any source of a plant protein diet and is found to be present three times more than other protein sources.  B12 is crucial for the neural development and maintenance of the brain.  Beef also contains the highest amounts of magnesium and potassium.  

There are 2 steps to create healthy and nutritious beef:

1.  Feed the cattle. 

2.  Slaughter and process the beef. 

Cattle are also an essential part of a regenerative ecosystem. Large areas of the United States are well-suited for grazing cattle. Raising cattle on lands not suitable for crop cultivation can be an effective way to utilize these resources for food production. 

I know the concern for environmental impact is always top of mind when discussion regarding beef production is brought up.  Cattle are known as ruminants and are a part of the natural carbon sequestration process.  That means cattle can actually help reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by human environmental factors.  The carbon cycle is a natural process in which the cow ingests leafy greens, not suitable for human consumption, then the waste is released back into the soil.  Anytime that soil is churned, whether it be a natural process or cultivation, which releases carbon back into the atmosphere.  

To me, this feels like an attack on our American Farmers and Ranchers.  A thriving industry that can readily produce food on a commercial scale already exists. Farmers and ranchers have made great strides to embrace technology and learn how to be more efficient and create long-term sustainability.  It is a threat to a decades-old tradition and an esteemed profession.  Farmers and Ranchers work hard despite the constant opposition to feed America, something they take great pride in.  With the amount of land being purchased by Internation companies, lab-grown meat just feels like another insult to American farms.  

Research continues to show over time that cattle truly only produce 2% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.   Recent studies also show that cattle are carbon sequesters, utilizing land not suitable for creating food for human consumption.  Regulatory approval seems rushed at best as no long-term case studies have been presented on behalf of the Federal Drug Administration.  Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been skeptical of the scalability and production costs associated with lab-grown meat.  

As for this farm family. we will continue to work tirelessly to grow and produce high-quality, Prime Angus beef right here in the heart of America. 

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