Scientists and environmentalists are always looking for ways to make meat consumption more environmentally friendly, but lab-grown meat may not be the solution. Scientists now say that synthetic meat might be more damaging to the environment than traditional cattle farms.
Research has shown that cattle farms have played a role in global warming. In fact, scientists estimate that 25 percent of all greenhouse gases can be attributed to agriculture, with beef production leading the way in methane and nitrous oxide production.
These alarming statistics have prompted scientists to look for viable alternatives in the meat market. Lab-grown meat has been a promising solution to the problem, though scientists warn that growing meat in a laboratory setting may be more harmful to the environment under certain circumstances.
The biggest difference between cattle beef and lab-grown beef is the type of emission that is produced. Cattle farms tend to produce a lot of methane, which contributes greatly to global warming. Manufacturing meat in a lab, meanwhile, releases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is also bad for the environment.
The catch is that methane breaks up in around 12 years while carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.
“Per tonne emitted, methane has a much larger warming impact than carbon dioxide. However, it only remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years, whereas carbon dioxide persists and accumulates for millennia,” Raymond Pierrehumbert, a professor at Oxford Martin School, explained.
That said, growing meat in a lab can be better for the environment if the manufacturing process uses sustainable energy. This would help curb the overall carbon use without releasing the amount of methane of traditional cattle farms. While this would lessen greenhouse gas emissions, there are other factors to consider with lab-grown meat, including water pollution.
Until more research is done on the long-term effects of lab-grown meat, scientists are ultimately unable to determine which method is better for the environment.
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