By Emily Gertz
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That chicken breast or pork loin sitting on your plate may look innocent enough -- yet meat production is among humanity's most environmentally destructive activities.
It is estimated that livestock raised for meat drink up eight percent of the fresh water supply, create 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and use about 30 percent of the world's non-ice-covered land. Clearing land for livestock is also a major driver of the destruction of forests and other wildlife habitat.
Enter "cultured meat," or meat grown "in vitro:" beef, sheep, and other animal muscle cells grown in laboratories, using the well-established tissue cultivation method of immersing a few cells in a nutrient-dense glop, and then leaving them alone to divide and increase.
Proponents say that cultured meat could feed billions cheaply. It could be grown in any shape, and even texturized to improve palatability: Sheets of meat cells could be stretched mechanically, imitating how an animal uses its muscles.