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Italy is a nation with enormous support for tradition when it comes to food production. This remains true when it comes to the question of artificial meat. The Italian senate has voted to ban it within the nation and the public seems to support it. Over two million Italians signed a petition to ban artificial meat within the European Union member state. If it becomes law, anyone producing artificial meat would face a 60,000 euro fine. Artificial meat would also not be allowed to be labeled as meat.
The bill is likely to pass as Italy’s first female Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, has already stated her support for the bill. The widespread support for the bill is not surprising as Italians are also the least likely in the European Union to eat insects. It is clear that Italians are resistant to change when it comes to food and prefer to stick to traditional food production.
Disadvantages Of Lab Grown Meat
While people may want to buy artificial meat due to not having to kill an animal, artificial meat still may not be equal to the real deal. There are concerns that artificial meat is potentially more harmful than meat that comes from livestock. In order to produce lab grown meat, soy protein is used. Some people are concerned about consuming too much soy due to isoflavones which is a plant estrogen and whether this can cause a hormonal imbalance. Current research shows that eating soy beans in moderation is perfectly safe and healthy however the research appears inconclusive about potential health risks with a high consumption. As the saying goes however, a doctor a day keeps the doctor away, not twenty. Consuming too much of one food can be unhealthy but this does not mean consumption in a normal range is dangerous. More research with larger sample sizes is necessary before making a definite statement about the healthiness of soy based diets and whether or not people need to be concerned about isoflavones mimicing estrogen.
While artificial meat has initially been presented as more environmentally friendly, there appears to be some doubts about this due to a lack of enough research to come to a conclusive result. While artificial meat should produce less GHG emissions, it is likely to produce more CO2 emissions due to the energy needed to operate the labs.
A disadvantage of artificial meat is that it is not completely free of animal cruelty as some animals are still used in order to produce cells for lab produced meat. This means that vegetarians and vegans are unlikely going to be willing consumers, which are the consumers who currently dominate the market for meat alternatives. There is also debate by Jewish and Muslim scholars or whether or not lab grown meat would be able to be classified as kosher or halal. In order to be classified as kosher or halal the animal must be slaughtered in a certain way but lab grown meat is not slaughtered.
Another challenge artificial meat has is consumer acceptance. Just because it is potentially better for the environment does not mean consumers will immediately line up to buy artificial meat. Even if consumers were willing to buy artificial meat in the European Union, they are less likely to in other countries such as China. China’s growing middle class continues to lead to an increase in meat consumption, which is significant as China has over three times the population of the European Union.
Consumer acceptance will also be difficult to achieve considering the current price point. Considering Italians are largely against lab grown meat, it is unlikely that they will start to consume it due to a significantly higher price point than real meat. Part of the high price point can be explained by amino acids which are necessary in order to produce meat in a lab, yet are expensive to produce as well. Until the process to create meat in a lab becomes more affordable, it is unlikely that hesitant consumers will pick it over traditional meat products not only in Italy but worldwide. As artificial meat is a new product, it is uncertain how long it will take for the price to converge with meat from animals. Pasta made with cricket flour is also significantly more expensive.
Positives of Artificial Meat
Despite using some animals in order to obtain cells to produce meat in a lab, this process will arguably use significantly less animals than traditional meat production. It also can prevent outbreaks in illness which are witnessed in factory farming where a large amount of livestock are kept in a small space.
Another potential positive aspect is the potential to control the nutritional values of lab grown meat. Labs should be able to manipulate meat to increase the protein or decrease the amount of fat in each portion. This aspect may attract more consumers if the lab is able to increase the amount of protein in each portion than possible for meat obtained by slaughtering livestock. This is particularly true for people eating meat primarily for the nutritional benefits rather than enjoyment who may view the taste to be potentially different.
In Italy’s case, it is clear that consumers reject the idea of eating artificial meat. As it has already been hypothesized that other nations may have the same attitude, more work needs to be done to improve the meat industry to protect animal welfare and address pollution from livestock farming. While public opinions may change in the future, artificial meat will not have a place in the kitchens of Italians any time soon. While it is admirable to attempt to produce meat without killing animals, this objective still appears to be out of reach for the time being.
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