Today it was made public that Google co-founder Sergey Bergin has been the mystery backer of Dutch scientist Mark Post’s project to create the world first lab grown hamburger. On this blog we have discussed to importance of lab-grown or in vitro meat before. As we have discussed in another post:
The main reason why Musk might want a vegetarian-only colony, is that meat is a very inefficient method of producing food. For producing 1kg of beef you need 10kg of vegetable food for cattle. Especially in the first Space settlements this will be an important factor. After all, the early space habitats will be small and agricultural land will limited. Since humans can perfectly live on a vegetarian diet, it will be an easy choice for Space governments to ban the raising of livestock for food.
It will be an easy choice, because for every cow ten people can be fed. So by banning livestock Space settlements can sustain a population up to ten times larger. Since these extra people will have a greater economic value than livestock, Space communities can grow faster to full economic independence from Earth.
As we can see in the article on BBC News: in vitro meat will require only 55% percent of the energy used by, emits only 4% of the greenhouse gas emission of, and only 1% of the land occupied by traditional animal farming. Especially the last reduction, is important for early space settlers. By switching to in vitro meat, space settlers can save 99% of their land, which can be used for more important applications.
Although at this moment only meatloaf can be produced by this method, we have to consider that most meat consumption consists of processed meat, such as hot-dogs, hamburgers, pizzas and chicken-nuggets. And in vitro meat is especially useful for producing such meat products.
Since the method developed by Prof Post, allow 10,000 kilogram of meat to be produced from one single stem cell, it is no longer necessary to kill animals. The needed stem cells can extracted from living animals through a biopsy, a standard medical procedure. Because stem cells can easily be frozen, there is no need for importing livestock to space settlements from Earth. However, in the more distant future it would be advisable to have a small herd of donor animals, for reasons of food security.