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Open Access Publications from the University of California

"Cultured Meat": Lab-Grown Beef and Regulating the Future Meat Market


Livestock production accounts for 19 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 9 percent of anthropogenic GHG emissions. It requires up to 30 percent of all land surface area on earth, 33 percent of all arable land, and 70 percent of agricultural land. It contributes to climate change in a myriad of ways, including land erosion, water contamination, and abundant resource use. Current practices are not sustainable for a rapidly growing population. Lab-grown meat, also known as cultured meat, provides an alternative that may address many of the environmental harms stemming from livestock production. Cultured meat requires 99 percent less land, 90 percent less water, and 45 percent less energy, which would help accommodate population growth while lowering food-based ecological impacts, including climate change. It can also be placed in areas inhospitable to traditional livestock production, and it would reduce animal cruelty. Currently, however, the federal statutory and regulatory framework governing livestock production is not prepared to address cultured meat. After introducing cultured meat and the technology behind it, this essay explores how current federal regulations fail to adequately address this development. The essay concludes by recommending the adoption of new regulations to clarify the growth, inspection, certification, and sale of cultured meat in the United States.

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