This post was originally posted on blogspot.com on January 19, 2012
Even since the time of Gerard K. O’Neill space colonist advocates are concerned on the issue of producing of meat in future space colonies. One of the main concerns is the conversion rate of meat. This means the amount of food which is needed to feed livestock to produce an amount of meat, e.g. the conversion rate for cattle is 10:1, which means 10 kg of food is needed to produce 1 kg of beef.
Anyone would know that agricultural space is a precious commodity in space settlements, especially in the early years. So it’s unlikely that in the first years of space colonization there will be a native meat industry. But the cost of importation of meat, even without any kind of tariffs, will be prohibitive high. And due to our preferred location in the Sun-Earth’s L4/L5 points, it will take months before a cargo meat will arrive from Earth to our colonies.
A possible solution for this problem are the use of plant protein based meat analogues. In recent years meat analogues are rather good in mimicking real meat products, so good that is sometimes hard to distinguish from real meat. Another solution is in vitro meat, in this process animal tissue is cultured in the lab. The main advantage of this is that it is a lot easier to transported (deep frozen) samples of tissue of several kinds of animals to distant space colonies than entire herds of animals.
Another advantage of in vitro meat is that it offers the possibility of a broad range of kinds of meat to choose from. Furthermore the technology used can also be applied for medical purposes. Therefore we can conclude that in vitro meat is a valuable technology to be developed by Space colonists.