Will cultured meat actually be better for the environment than “regular” meat?
Back in 2008, no data existed about the environmental impact of cultured meat. To fill this gap, New Harvest funded independent research to investigate the claim that cultured meat will have a better environmental footprint than meat from animals. After circulating a request for proposals (RFP), we picked a researcher named Hanna Tuomisto out of the University of Oxford to conduct the world’s first life cycle analysis of cultured meat.
This research generated the first citable data about the potential environmental impact of cultured meat, published in a milestone peer-reviewed publication.
The media surge associated with the numbers from the paper helped attract more people to cultured meat as an area of research and stimulate further life cycle assessment work.
As of April 2021, the paper has over 22,000 views and 230 citations.1
Note: The following is excerpted and adapted from our old website, now available as a blog post.
This study has received much criticism. The main criticism is that since no commercial cultured meat facility existed at the time of Hanna’s research, the paper is “a fairly complex thought experiment.” In other words, the paper is based on a number of questionable assumptions including:
As the industry and science of cultured meat advances, researchers are able to build more accurate models to assess environmental impact.
This initiative kickstarted a data-driven conversation about the environmental impact of cultured meat and provided a starting point for further life cycle assessment research.
October, 2014 – Hanna amends the initial paper to address criticisms about methodology.
June, 2011 – Peer-reviewed publication is published in Environmental Sciences & Technology.
January, 2011– Publication is submitted for peer-review
August, 2008 – New Harvest circulates a request for proposals (RFP) for LCAs about cultured meat and picks a team at the University of Oxford, led by Hanna Tuomisto.
This research was conducted by Hanna L. Tuomisto at the University of Oxford, and M. Joost Teixeira de Mattos at the University of Amsterdam.