By 2040, 60% of ‘meat’ won’t come from dead animals

Experts say two emerging meat alternatives will challenge the conventional meat industry.

Impossible burger

ROBYN BECK/Contributor
  • "Novel vegan meat alternatives" and cultured meat will likely become competitors to traditional meat products, the report says.
  • The report was conducted by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney and was based on expert interviews.
  • Cultured meat isn't yet on the market, but could be by 2021.


A new report predicts that 60 percent of the meat people eat in 2040 won't come from dead animals, but rather from plant-based substitutes and cultured meat. "The large-scale livestock industry is viewed by many as an unnecessary evil," the report states, adding later: "With the advantages of novel vegan meat replacements and cultured meat over conventionally produced meat, it is only a matter of time before they capture a substantial market share."

The report — conducted by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney, and based on expert interviews — found that "classic vegan and vegetarian meat replacements as well as insect-based meat alternatives" probably won't disrupt the $1,000 billion conventional meat industry.

What could? The report identifies two candidates: novel vegan meat replacements, like the Impossible Burger, and cultured meat, which is grown in a lab and doesn't require killing animals. These unconventional meat alternatives have market potential because they taste similar to conventional meat. What's more, both are better for the environment than the conventional meat industry, whose supply chain — from feed production to methane emissions to meat processing — requires massive amounts of energy, and it's unlikely to become any more efficient.

So, for carnivores concerned about the environment, cultured meat could be a way to finally enjoy guilt-free meat. Most consumers seem up for giving it a shot. "Novel vegan meat replacements are marketable due to the trend toward semi-vegetarianism and their sophisticated sensory profile," the report states.

Interestingly, this also applies to cultured meat. In recent surveys, most respondents in Western countries are willing to taste cultured meat and half of them are willing to buy it regularly. Similar studies show that people in India and China are particularly interested in cultured meat. Crucial for consumer acceptance is to educate society to point out the benefits of cultured meat.

Cultured meat will likely hit markets by 2021, experts say. The meat alternative wields great potential because it requires relatively little arable land and water, and because the production process will only become more efficient as the industry grows in scale.

Meat alternatives offer hope for a looming problem: How are we going to feed the world's growing population, which is expected to soar from 7.6 billion in 2018 to 10 billion in 2050? Whatever the answer, it's clear that the inefficiency of the conventional meat industry is a major obstacle, considering more than half of global agricultural production is used to feed livestock, not people.

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
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