This week we watched as taste testers sunk their teeth into the world’s first lab-grown beef hamburger, which cost $332,000 to grow and was funded in part by Google’s Sergey Brin. Meanwhile, there are plenty of affordable plant-based proteins, and companies such as Beyond Meat (in which Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams heavily invested) provide meat alternatives said to look, feel and taste like the real thing. But which would you rather eat – a burger made from 20,000 strips of muscle and lab-grown fat or chicken strips made mostly with soy protein? Take our poll below!
As the world’s population booms, many people envision a future where there simply won’t be enough grain, land or water to raise animals for food. And global warming will be so bad that we won’t want to send another ounce of cow gas into the atmosphere. Never mind the ethics of it all, let’s get down to the meat of the matter: the planet simply can’t sustain billions of people eating real, live animals. So what’s a better alternative? Meat grown in a lab from the cells of an actual cow, or plant proteins? And which product has better potential to thrive on the western market?
Lab-Grown Stem Cell Beef Burger
The world’s first stem cell burger cost $332,000, but that could change if enough resources are devoted to scaling up this Dutch food experiment. It was funded in part by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and it was finally taste tested in front of a global audience earlier this week. Apparently it has the texture and taste of real meat, but it lacks fat. Testers said that it wasn’t disgusting, but the concept is certainly strange.
Instead of raising grass-eating cows in natural landscapes, the technology would replace farms with enormous factories that grow fake meat. That being said, removing bovines from global food production diverts methane emissions from the atmosphere, and that’s a good thing. Cow waste will no longer pollute waterways, and the animals themselves will escape dreadful treatment from one of the world’s most callous, ruthless industries. And there’s nothing that says small-scale organic farmers with land can’t keep their happy cows and butcher them to make real burgers.
Beyond Meat Chicken Strips
Beyond Meat chicken strips cost (just a bit) less than a lab-grown burger at roughly $5.29 for a package, and they’re currently available at certain Whole Foods stores – which means we don’t have to roll out a pile of money to make them widely available. Many people say they taste good, but there are downsides.
Currently Beyond Meat’s chicken strips are made with soy, which, to be fair, does have some environmental implications. Unless they are organic, soy products in the United States undergo and a chemical bath treatment that is not desirable for health reasons. Also, soy is an industrially-farmed crop in the United States. Beyond Meat’s beef crumble, however, is made from pea protein.
For now, eating some Beyond Meat products is not as healthy as a bowl of straight-up lentil soup, but eventually, when the company pushes past soy and starts incorporating more lupin, mustard seed, and other plant-based proteins into their foods (which they plan to do), their food will be healthier. And by the way, there are plenty of less famous vegan protein alternative suppliers like the Mah Wah Vegetarian Market in NYC, whose food products contain zero GMOs, MSG, dairy or cholesterol.