The Human Health Effects of Cultivated Meat: Food Safety

The Human Health Effects of Cultivated Meat: Food Safety
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What are the direct health implications of making clean meat—that is, meat without animals?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In a 1932 article in Popular Mechanics entitled “Fifty Years Hence,” Winston Churchill predicted that we would one day escape the absurdity—the inefficiency—of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing just the parts we need. Indeed, growing meat straight from muscle cells could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 96 percent, lower water use as much as 96 percent, and lower land use by as much as 99 percent.

If we are to avoid dangerous climate change by the middle of the century, global meat consumption simply cannot continue to rise at the current rate. And there have certainly been initiatives like Meatless Mondays to try to get people to cut down, but so far “they do not appear to be contributing in any significant way to the translation of the idea of eating less meat into the mainstream.” So, in light of people’s continued desire to eat meat, it seems the problems associated with consumption are unlikely to be fully resolved by changing people’s attitudes. So instead, maybe we should try changing the product.

From an environmental standpoint, it seems like a slam dunk. From an animal welfare standpoint, it could get rid of factory farms and slaughterhouses for good, and I wouldn’t have to stumble across articles like this in the scientific literature. I mean, what more do you need to know about modern animal agriculture than the fact so-called “ag-gag” laws have been proposed and passed across the country, banning undercover photos inside such operations to keep us all in the dark.

Okay, but what about the human health implications of cultivated meat? I get the animal welfare, environment, and food security benefits, but what about the potential for cultivated meat to have health and safety benefits to individual consumers? Nutritionally, the most important advantage is being able to swap out the type of fat, since right now, they’re just growing straight muscle tissue. You could marble it with something less harmful than animal fat, though of course, you’re still stuck with the animal protein.

In terms of health, the biggest, clearest advantage is food safety, reducing the risk of food-borne pathogens. There’s been a six-fold increase in food poisoning over the last few decades. We’re talking tens of millions sickened annually by infected food in the United States alone, including hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of annual deaths. And contaminated meats and other animal products are the most common cause.

When the cultivated meat industry calls its products clean meat, that’s not just a nod to clean energy. Food poisoning pathogens like E. coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella are fecal bacteria. They are a result of fecal contamination. They’re intestinal bugs, and so, you don’t have to worry about them if you’re making meat without the intestines.

Yes, there are all sorts of methods to remove visible fecal contamination in slaughterhouses these days, and even experimental imaging technologies designed to detect more diluted fecal contaminations. But we’re still left at the retail level with about 10 percent of chicken contaminated with Salmonella, 40 percent of retail chicken contaminated with Campylobacter, and most poultry and about half of retail ground beef and pork chops contaminated with E. coli, an indicator of fecal residue. But you don’t have to cook the crap out of cultivated meat, because there isn’t any crap to begin with.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In a 1932 article in Popular Mechanics entitled “Fifty Years Hence,” Winston Churchill predicted that we would one day escape the absurdity—the inefficiency—of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing just the parts we need. Indeed, growing meat straight from muscle cells could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 96 percent, lower water use as much as 96 percent, and lower land use by as much as 99 percent.

If we are to avoid dangerous climate change by the middle of the century, global meat consumption simply cannot continue to rise at the current rate. And there have certainly been initiatives like Meatless Mondays to try to get people to cut down, but so far “they do not appear to be contributing in any significant way to the translation of the idea of eating less meat into the mainstream.” So, in light of people’s continued desire to eat meat, it seems the problems associated with consumption are unlikely to be fully resolved by changing people’s attitudes. So instead, maybe we should try changing the product.

From an environmental standpoint, it seems like a slam dunk. From an animal welfare standpoint, it could get rid of factory farms and slaughterhouses for good, and I wouldn’t have to stumble across articles like this in the scientific literature. I mean, what more do you need to know about modern animal agriculture than the fact so-called “ag-gag” laws have been proposed and passed across the country, banning undercover photos inside such operations to keep us all in the dark.

Okay, but what about the human health implications of cultivated meat? I get the animal welfare, environment, and food security benefits, but what about the potential for cultivated meat to have health and safety benefits to individual consumers? Nutritionally, the most important advantage is being able to swap out the type of fat, since right now, they’re just growing straight muscle tissue. You could marble it with something less harmful than animal fat, though of course, you’re still stuck with the animal protein.

In terms of health, the biggest, clearest advantage is food safety, reducing the risk of food-borne pathogens. There’s been a six-fold increase in food poisoning over the last few decades. We’re talking tens of millions sickened annually by infected food in the United States alone, including hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of annual deaths. And contaminated meats and other animal products are the most common cause.

When the cultivated meat industry calls its products clean meat, that’s not just a nod to clean energy. Food poisoning pathogens like E. coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella are fecal bacteria. They are a result of fecal contamination. They’re intestinal bugs, and so, you don’t have to worry about them if you’re making meat without the intestines.

Yes, there are all sorts of methods to remove visible fecal contamination in slaughterhouses these days, and even experimental imaging technologies designed to detect more diluted fecal contaminations. But we’re still left at the retail level with about 10 percent of chicken contaminated with Salmonella, 40 percent of retail chicken contaminated with Campylobacter, and most poultry and about half of retail ground beef and pork chops contaminated with E. coli, an indicator of fecal residue. But you don’t have to cook the crap out of cultivated meat, because there isn’t any crap to begin with.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

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