Current meat production, particularly cattle, is unsustainable for the planet, the ranchers, and the animals. Two innovations are changing the business models.
A startup in the Seattle area is changing the way beef is harvested, sold, and delivered. Instead of making the rancher respond to a factory system, the company, Crowd Cow, connects the rancher with the consumer. When an animal is selected, it is only killed and butchered if there are enough individuals willing to purchase their portion. Crowd Cow acts as the electronic market place intermediary. The rancher only deals with Crowd Cow, which makes their business easier to operate. In the meantime, Crowd Cow only deals with ranchers engaged with sustainable practices like grass-fed rather than grain-fed herds.
One way to become even more sustainable is to grow the meat without growing the animal. In-vitro meat is coming closer to production. Muscle cells are removed from one animal once, and grown into something similar to muscle. There are many differences, but taste and texture is being duplicated, though with effort. Within the next few years, it is expected that mass production is possible. One key to harmless beef is consumer acceptance. Early studies suggest about 65% of meat eaters would be willing to eat such meat. The bigger the market, the sooner it happens, and the lower the price.
Both approaches cost more than conventional meat production, but both have the potential to be more sustainable.