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How to Feed Ten Billion People: Lab-Made Clean Meat Burgers are the Future of Food

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Imaging brewing meat the way we brew beer.

The world's human population reached 7.4 billion in March 2016, having reached 7 billion in October 2011. In 2050, it is expected to reach 9.7 billion, raising the question of how to produce enough food for everybody.

"Current techniques put at least nine calories into an animal, to get one calorie back out in the form of that animal's flesh. We'd need about five more planets to feed 9.7 billion people if we wanted to feed them all proportionally as much animal meat as people are eating today," Director of the Good Food Institute Bruce Friedrich said.

Friedrich said there are two ways of producing new kinds of meat. One is "plant-based meat," which uses lupin, soy, wheat or other vegetation to mimic meat. The other is revolutionary "clean meat," produced from animal cells.

"Clean meat is actually meat, you take cells from a chicken or a cow and you grow them by adding sugars instead of growing them in an animal," he explained. 

Friedrich said that producing meat would become almost as easy as brewing beer, and could be done almost anywhere.

"You might go into a pub and they're got a beer fermenter right there, you could do that with meat. It would look basically the same. You could have one tank that is brewing beer and another tank that is basically cultivating meat in the tank."

Friedrich said that the idea of plant based and clean meat is very popular with consumers, and that investors are queuing up to invest in these technologies. Some of the newer firms which are developing them, "Impossible Foods," "Beyond Meat" and "Hampton Creek Foods," are valued at more than $2 billion dollars.

This is also about saving water.

In 2012, scientists from the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) published a study warning that in order to properly ration the world's water supply, people will have to almost completely cut out eating meat by 2050.

"There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in Western nations (3,000 kcal produced per capita, including 20 per cent of calories produced coming from animal proteins)," they wrote in their report, called "Feeding a Thirsty World: Challenges and Opportunities for a Water and Food Secure Future."

"There will, however, be just enough water, if the proportion of animal based foods is limited to 5 percent of total calories and considerable regional water deficits can be met by a well-organized and reliable system of food trade," the scientists said.

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