Is 2019 the year of lab-grown meat?


Is 2019 the year of lab-grown meat?

Vegan Society of Canada News, January 5th 2019

This year is the 75th anniversary of the vegan philosophy and veganism. In all of those decades, we have kept discussing about the ethics of animal agriculture, cruelty, torture and exploitation but the number of people who self-identify as vegans remains fairly stagnant at around 2-4%. Furthermore, not only is the number of vegan stagnant, but as we previously discussed meat consumption keep continuously rising. Now it could be that the next few years everyone would embrace the ethical message, but this is certainly not the current trend.

We speculate that the best chance of animal agriculture being severely reduced within the next decade is through good old fashion capitalism. This article from Deutsche Welle gives a good overview of where we came from and where we are going in terms of laboratory grown meat. There has been tremendous progress made in the recent years. We started with a burger that would cost 381,000 Canadian dollars to about 67$ now. In the short term, it is low enough to have in select restaurants and to continue working on improving the technology and bringing the cost down. When the cost of lab-grown meat will be below that of conventional animal agriculture it will all but vanish.

The impact of this are not to be underestimated. One could wonder why would a lab-grown meat priced below 4.28$/kg make threaten dairy or chicken? Currently the price of beef today on the futures market is about 4.28$/kg having reach a high of around 7$/kg in 2014. Those prices are only attainable in large part because of economies of scale. For example, dairy farmer kill male calf for their meat since they do not produce milk, and this act as another revenue stream. Once this secondary market no longer exists the price of milk will have to rise to compensate. Furthermore, all the antibiotics, and professionals that works in the industry will also cost more because veterinarians will leave the practice and less antibiotics will need to be produced raising their cost. This will in turn once again cause the price of milk to rise. All of these pressure will cause the price of all products resulting from animal agriculture to skyrocket until one day when a consumer faced with the prospect of buying ice cream made from dairy at 20$ per liter versus 5$ for dairy-free the choice will be much easier for many.

The same will happen to all other markets that meat production enables like leather goods. In our history we have seen this happen many times over for other things that technology improved and we are about to see this in action again with animal agriculture. The same large animal agriculture corporations we know today are well aware of this and are already hedging their bets by making some significant investment in plant based foods and lab-grown meat. Without a doubt many challenges exist in making a vegan certifiable and sustainable lab-grown meat, but many corporations seem eager to fulfill this challenge.

This should serve as a reminder that black and white statement that meat is not vegan certifiable are incorrect. In general black and white statement are often incorrect, or at best incomplete. We live in a world where technology make things that were once thought as impossible part of everyday life. There is probably somewhere today some meat which would be vegan certifiable, and hopefully one day soon vegan certified meat will be readily available at a competitive price. So when people reply that they would never follow the vegan philosophy because they enjoy meat too much, tell them never might come sooner then they think.