Clean Meat Will Revolutionize Our Meals and the Entire World

Paul Shapiro's new book "Clean Meat" is a definitive and global game-changer.

Posted Dec 20, 2017

Real meat without the animals: From one single cell of a cow, you could feed an entire village

It's well known that so-called "food animals," who are raised and slaughtered by the billions in the animal industrial complex, suffer immensely for their entire lives from the time they're born to the time they're killed. It's also well established that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) also are the cause of severe environmental damage globally. Few if any people debate these facts, but the slaughtering and the polluting continue worldwide as if there's no problem at all.

While a growing number of people "go veggie" or "go vegan" for a variety of reasons, others still want to eat meat, fully knowing the suffering and damage for which they're responsible. Thus, I was thrilled to learn of The Humane Society of the United States Vice President of Policy Engagement Paul Shapiro's new book called Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World. Clean meat is "real, actual meat grown (or brewed!) from animal cells—as well as other clean foods that ditch animal cells altogether and are simply built from the molecule up. Whereas our ancestors domesticated wild animals into livestock, today we’re beginning to domesticate their cells, leaving the animals out of the equation. From one single cell of a cow, you could feed an entire village. And the story of this coming “second domestica­tion” is anything but tame."

I was, and continue to be intrigued by what Mr. Shapiro writes, so I asked if he could take the time to do an interview about his landmark book, and here is what he wrote.

With permission of Paul Shapiro
Source: With permission of Paul Shapiro

Clean meat isn’t an alternative to meat; it’s real, actual meat grown from animal cells

Why did you write Clean Meat?

With our growing population and global demand for animal products increasing, raising such huge numbers of animals for food poses serious challenges. Factory farming of animals is simply unsustainable for the climate, food safety, public health, animal welfare, and more. But what if we could have our meat and eat it too? Enter clean meat. Just as we need clean energy to compete with fossil fuels, clean meat is poised to become a competitor of factory farms. Clean meat isn’t an alternative to meat; it’s real, actual meat grown from animal cells, as well as other clean animal products that ditch animal cells altogether, are simply built from the molecule up.

How does your book build upon your long-time interests in getting people to stop eating other animals and animal products?

I’ve spent my career trying to advance the interests of animals, primarily through helping pass public and corporate policies aimed at reducing their suffering. At the same time, it’s clear that technology can do as much, if not more, to help reduce our exploitation of animals. After all, it was largely the invention of the car, not humane sentiment, that freed horses in our streets. It was largely the invention of kerosene, not sustainability concerns, that freed whales from harpoons. Clean meat and plant-based meats have the potential to render the factory farm as much of a relic of a technologically primitive past as a whaling ship seems to us today.

What are your major messages?

Our species is facing a crisis: as the global population swells, just how are we going to feed billions more people on a planet already suffering from a shortage of natural resources? Complicating matters further, as poorer nations like China and India (which are also the most populous in the world) become richer, many of their citizens who’d previously subsisted on a largely plant-based diet will start to demand a more conventionally American regimen, heavy in meat, eggs, and dairy—products previously reserved for the wealthy but which they can now afford. As many sustainability experts observe, given how inefficient it is to raise animals rather than plants for our food, the earth just can’t accommodate such an increase in animal-product demand. The change in climate will be too great, the deforestation too severe, the water use too massive, and the animal cruelty too unbearable. We need an alternative way to produce the meat that most people want, and we need it fast. Clean meat is one possible solution to this dire problem.

Who is your intended audience?

Anyone interested in food, agriculture, business, sustainability, and animal welfare.

Are you hopeful that that "clean meat" will become a popular meal?

Yes, very much so. And the surveys conducted so far on the topic suggest that a lot of consumers are ready for clean meat. At present, virtually no one eats meat because of how it’s produced. They eat it in spite of how it’s produced. There may be some people who don’t want to eat meat unless an animal was slaughtered for it, but when clean meat is commercially available at affordable costs, many people will be very happy to eat it instead.

My goal with this book is to familiarize readers with the concept of clean meat, hopefully accelerating the efforts of the entrepreneurs working to make it a commercial reality.

By applying what have largely been medical technologies to growing animal-agricultural products, entrepreneurs are delivering to us with clean meat a kind of “second domestication.” In the first domestication, thousands of years ago, humans began selectively breeding animals and planting seeds, exerting more control over how we obtained food. Today, we’re taking that control down to the cellular level. Whereas our ancestors domesticated wild animals into livestock, today we’re beginning to domesticate those animals’ cells. And from one single cell of a cow, you could feed an entire village.

Thank you, Paul, for such a thoughtful interview. I hope your book receives a global audience because your important fact-filled message is not limited by geography, nor is the enormous of amount and pain, suffering, and death experienced by so-called "food animals." Clean Meat is a definitive and global game-changer that deserves serious attention from a broad audience. Each of us truly can make positive differences in the lives of other animals and for the health of our magnificent planet.