A new report suggests lab-grown meat may have a larger carbon footprint than retail beef. Researchers at the University of California-Davis found that lab-grown or “cultivated” meat’s environmental impact is likely to be “orders of magnitude” higher than retail beef based. Researchers conducted a life-cycle assessment of the energy needed and greenhouse gases emitted in all stages of production and compared that with beef. One of the current challenges with lab-grown meat is the use of highly refined or purified growth media, the ingredients needed to help animal cells multiply.
The study found that the global warming potential of lab-based meat using these purified media is four to 25 times greater than the average for retail beef. Even the most efficient beef production systems reviewed in the study outperform cultured meat across all scenarios, suggesting investments to advance more climate-friendly beef production may yield greater reductions in emissions more quickly than investments in cultured meat.