Today, livestock production requires 8% of global water resources, 33% of the planet's ice-free land and is the cause of 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Besides being resource intensive, livestock production is also the origin of many epidemic diseases and widespread antibiotic resistance. Today, Earth's 7 billion people are served by a global herd of 60 billion livestock. By 2050, the Earth's human population is expected to reach 9 billion, served by 100 billion livestock. How will we maintain these projected populations under environmental limitations?
One solution is to create animal products through cell culture, or biofabrication, rather than animal husbandry. In August 2013 the first ever cell cultured hamburger was publically tasted in the UK. Cultured meat is being heralded as a sustainable solution that can ensure long-term security of supply, reduced environmental impacts, improved safety and public health and improved conditions for existing livestock.
We still have a long way to go but the debut of these products represents the crucial first steps in finding a sustainable alternative to livestock production.
Chair of Physiology, Maastricht University
Dr. Mark Post has been Chair of Physiology and Vice Dean of Biomedical Technology at Maastricht University since 2004. Post first got involved in a Dutch government-funded programme investigating “in vitro meat” in 2008, when he was a professor of tissue engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology. When the director of the programme fell ill, Post took over supervision of the PhD students and motivated by the potentially high societal impact, continued research even after the funding had ended in 2010.