A new study from the University of Helsinki has argued that eating meat grown in a lab and mashed-up bugs, is good for the environment.
The study, which looked at the incorporation of “novel foods” into European/Western diets, suggested that switching over to substitutes from directly animal-related products could reduce the potential for global warming, as well as land and water use.
“Replacing animal-source foods in current diets with novel foods reduced all environmental impacts by over 80% and still met nutrition and feasible consumption constraints,” the study, authored by Rachel Mazac and others claimed.
The “novel foods” were defined as “those produced from new production technologies or that are under novel regulatory frameworks such as cell-culturing technologies— cultured meat, eggs, milk, plants, algae, bacteria and fungi.”
“Cultured” meat would be grown in a lab, although would still be sourced from animal cells, not plant-based products. Speaking to the BBC, Mazac noted that this was a “very different production system” from the current agricultural world.
The study also encouraged the consumption of “future foods,” such as ground-up insects, “which our production capacity has the potential to scale up and/or for which consumption may increase due to emerging climate change mitigation concerns.”
It was determined that a selection of ground-up insects, microbial protein, and fungal protein has “the best balance of trade-offs between nutritional content and environmental impacts” for a future human diet.
Speaking to USA Today, Mazac suggested that a typical diet could include: “a protein shake for breakfast made from cow milk brewed in cell cultures, with added insect powder for protein, blue-green algae for vitamins and lab-grown cloudberry slurry for taste; a burger made from beef grown in a vat for lunch; for dinner a burrito made from scrambled cultured fungal protein.”
The Helsinki-based researcher admitted that people would have to be motivated, either based on price or a determination to reduce their environmental impact, in order to get over their “inhibitions” of eating insects and seaweed. “We can have a really significant impact [in changing our diets],” Mazac said, “but we’re also part of a system that needs to change pretty urgently.”
However, a key note in the study not included in other news reports was that the various diets that the study drew its conclusions from would be “difficult to realistically adopt at a large scale,” as they were “completely devoid” of animal-sourced foodstuffs, which still play a “substantial” role in global food systems.