What does cultured meat mean to Africa

Explanation of cultured meat grown in laboratories and the impact on Africa.

What is Cultured Meat?

Cultured meat is meat produced outside of a living animal produced by culturing animal stem cells created for humans to eat. Cultured meat is envisioned as a potential to produce a high-quality protein that could complement and or partially substitute for the growing demand for meat proteins due in-part to more than half of global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa and a more environmental and sustainable way to feed people is vital.

The world's first cultured meat burger colored red with beetroot juice was cooked and eaten at a news conference in London August 2013. Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, was the project's backer and funded$330,000 for research.

Critics of cultured meat opinion technological fixes, whether it is lab-grown meat or GM crops address the symptoms rather than the causes of world hunger. Prof Tara Garnett, head of the Food Policy Research Network at Oxford University, said decision-makers needed to look beyond technological solutions. "That's just weird and unacceptable. The solutions don't just lie with producing more food but changing the systems of supply and access and affordability, so not just more food but better food gets to the people who need it."

Garnett added: "A lot of people consider lab-grown meat repulsive at first. But if they consider what goes into producing normal meat in a slaughterhouse, I think they would also find that repulsive." She also stated, "We have a situation where 1.4 billion people in the world are overweight and obese, and at the same time one billion people worldwide go to bed hungry," she said.

Pew Research Center analysis on Africa's population growth stated that by 2100, five of the top 10 most populous countries in the world will be in Africa. Four countries currently in the top 10 Brazil, Bangladesh, Russia, and Mexico; will fall out and be replaced by African countries projected to have sizable population growth: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Egypt. These countries will join Nigeria, which is already in the top 10 and is expected to become the third-most populous nation.

Cultured meat is also known as:

Clean Meat

Kill Free Meat

Lab Grown Meat

Vitro Meat

Synthetic Meat

Would you eat cultured meat burgers
Would you eat cultured meat burgers

Supporters of cultured meat believe that opponents should consider earths limited natural resources, such as land, water, fuel, and increased emissions as well as rapid population growth, food security is one of the largest challenges of the current century. Lab-grown meat, cultured from the stem cells of animals, is considered by many to be a sustainable and ethical solution to the demands of the meat industry.

Commercial scale production is anticipated by 2021 however to date cultured meat does not appear to offer substantial benefits over poultry meat or egg production due to cell and tissue culture are currently not efficient processes in terms of energy, water, and feedstock expenditure. 

Comparison with the land use savings from reduced consumer waste, including over-consumption, suggests greater benefits could be achieved from alternative dietary transformations considered. We conclude that although a diet with lower rates of animal product consumption is likely to create the greatest reduction in agricultural land, a mix of smaller changes in consumer behavior, such as replacing beef with chicken, reducing food waste and potentially introducing insects more commonly into diets, would also achieve land savings and a more sustainable food system.

Technology still uncertain, and benefits compared to other sources of nutrients currently are not well demonstrated. The high direct energy used in production also a concern. In addition to challenges of consumer acceptance, the use of cultured meat products as food for human requires additional evaluation as to how much regulatory oversight to safeguard quality, safety, public and environmental health is necessary.

Importance of cattle and cattle meat in Africa.

Gabon, South Africa, and Mauritius are the African countries that eat the most meat. The African dynamic trio of beef producers are Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The United States is the largest producer of beef in the world while Vegetarian India is the largest exporter of buffalo meat in the world. In Botswana, as a result of an outbreak of the foot and mouth disease, the exporting of beef by the beef powerhouse country has significantly reduced exports.

Zimbabwe’s lucrative beef export into the European Union has been struggling over the past few years. Farm invasions instituted by President Robert Mugabe’s government in 2000 destroyed the sector as it displaced many beef ranchers from their land. Despite difficulties, Namibia has found a way to export its prime cattle.

Under the new protocol signed with Namibia, the southern African country will be allowed to export to Hong Kong frozen deboned and bone-in meat, excluding head, feet, offal and viscera and other by-products. The top three meat-eating African countries are Gabon 146 pounds per person, South Africa -129 pounds and Mauritius 109 pounds per person. A single US resident consumes, on average, 265 pounds per year.

Cushites, or Cushitic people, live in the arid and semi-arid eastern and northeastern parts of Kenya. They reside along a very large area of land that runs from the east of Lake Turkana, stretches to the north of Kenya, and through to the Indian Ocean.

Cushites include the Somali, Rendile, Borana and Oromo tribes. Due to the dryness of their habitat throughout most of the year, Cushites are mainly nomadic pastoralists who keep large herds of cattle, camels, goats, and sheep. Cushitic people maintain very close ties with their kinsmen - the Cushites of the neighboring countries of Somalia and Ethiopia.

Cattle and children are an important aspect to the Maasai people. The Maasai people of East Africa live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley on semi-arid and arid lands. Maasai own large herds of cattle, sheep, and goats which they follow around seasonally in search of new grazing grounds and water sources. Traditionally Maasai tribes have been an independent tribe.

Cattle and children are an important aspect to the Maasai people. Cattle play a central role in the life of the Maasai. Cattle represent food and power; the more cattle a Maasai has, the richer he is and therefore the more power and influence he will have within his tribe. Individual, families, and clans established close ties through giving or exchange of cattle. While the Maasai traditions have undergone some changes in the past few decades, their strong social traditions remain intact.

The Samburu are semi-nomadic pastoralists. Cattle, as well as sheep, goats, and camels, are of utmost importance to the Samburu culture and way of life. Traditionally men look after the cattle and they are also responsible for the safety of the tribe.

Samburu boys learn to tend cattle from a young age. The Rift Valley province in Kenya is a dry, somewhat barren land, and the Samburu have to move constantly to ensure their cattle can feed. Around every 6 weeks, the group will move to find fresh grazing grounds.

These settlements are called manyattas. On November 11, 2011, 1,000 cattle and 2,000 sheep and goats of the Samburu livestock were impounded due to a violent dispute over land ownership with the Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation who purchased the land and gave it as a gift to Kenya for a national park, Laikipia National Park.

Grilling meat for a party
Grilling meat for a party

What does cultured meat mean to Africa?

It is far too early to tell if cultured meat will cause a shift in the African traditional culture traditions as well as the economy. Cultured meat has the backing of a few wealthy capitalists but not the average person in Africa or around the world.

Researchers are looking for alternatives to traditional meat because it is believed farming animals is helping to drive up global temperatures however if the lab-grown meat is quite energy-intensive to produce then they could end up being worse for the climate than cows are.

Growing meat in the laboratory may do more damage to the climate in the long run than meat from cattle. "The climate impacts of cultured meat production will depend on what level of sustainable energy generation can be achieved, as well as the efficiency of future culture processes," said lead author Dr. John Lynch.

For now, harvesting cells instead of animals has no bearing as many pastoral communities in Africa view cattle as a sign of wealth. Scientists growing cultured meat may believe cattle are an unsustainable food supply however cattle are an increasingly important resource to millions of Africans as sustainable sources of food, and wealth.


Source References:

Meat Science Volume 102, April 2015, Pages 49-58

FAO/WHO/AU International Food Safety Conference Summary page two

Global Food Security Volume 15, December 2017, Pages 22-32

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