The average American will eat about 222 pounds of meat this year, more than ever before. Despite the eat-less-meat trend that started in the early 2000s, people are eating and producing more and more meat. But scientists say that even if people continue including more meat in their diet, by 2040, the majority of our “meat” won’t be quite what we’re used to. Luckily, though, thanks to a number of inventive companies, a meatless future won’t be all broccoli and beets.
What will the meat of the future be?
Scientists predict that the meat of the future will not come from slaughterhouses or even from family farms, but from vats and plants. Companies such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Just Foods have been experimenting successfully with plant-based meat replacements; over $1 billion dollars has already been invested in the science of new meat, and the trend isn’t over yet. These three companies all focus on creating plant-based meat replacement products, but soon, they won’t be the only meat alternative options. Other companies are working to create a meat product that is officially meat but doesn’t come from once-living animals: these companies and their scientists hope to be able to grow meat cells in controlled cultures to create meat products without the animal processing and related environmental consequences.
A report by AT Kearney, a global consultancy, interviewed a range of experts around the world in the field of meat production, farming, and the future of meat as a food group in the conventional sense. Their prediction is that by 2040, 35% of meat will be cultured in labs and 25% of “meat” will be plant-based meat replacements. The authors of the AT Kearney report are confident that as people continue to learn about and understand the environmental impact of meat eating and experience the non-traditional meat alternatives, new meat products will quickly overtake factory farming and classic meat eating.
What are the benefits of new “meat”?
One of the major concerns about excessive meat eating is the massive environmental impact meat production has on the world. Animals that will eventually become meat require massive amounts of land–land that could otherwise be used for housing or growing food that uses space more efficiently than grazing cows or sheep. Research has shown that the people of the world could be happy, healthy, and full without meat and dairy and that currently used farmland would be reduced by 75%. Although 83% of the world’s farmland is currently being used to produce meat and dairy, those products only contribute 37% of the average person’s daily protein (and only 18% of our daily calories). Even worse, this farmland and its livestock contribute to 60% of the world’s overall greenhouse gas emissions and over 50% of the world’s air pollution and water pollution.
What non-meat meat products can you try today?
Although cultured meat made of legitimate meat cells isn’t on the market yet, you don’t have to wait until your favorite hamburger is made of science meat to try out some meatless meat replacement products. The vegan, vegetarian, and meat alternative market has exploded in recent years, so whatever your preferences or reasons for trying some of these plant-based products you can certainly find something you and your family will love.
Well-known companies like Tofurkey still sell meatless turkeys, but they also produce meatless deli slices if you’re looking to switch up your cold cuts or lunchtime sandwich. Quorn and Gardein are slightly newer meatless alternatives to try out (Gardein is backed by Oprah’s own vegan chef), and Morning Star Farms offers an extensive collection of meatless chicken, sausage, and beef.
Even if you don’t start moving in the veggie direction today, keep your eyes and mind open: you might be enjoying science-grown meat before you know it.