If it took 10 gallons of gas to drive a mile, would you use your car much? If a latte cost $1,000, would you buy any? It would be ludicrous to waste such large amounts of resources to get such small returns. Yet this tremendous waste underpins our entire food supply chain.
Animals are terribly inefficient at converting raw materials into food -- it's simply not what they were born to do. To create a single pound of chicken we need to give the birds 2 pounds of feed. A single pound of beef requires 6 pounds of feed. And a single gallon of milk requires a whopping 6 pounds of feed and over 1,000 gallons of water!1
The dismal food returns from livestock is not a new revelation. Winston Churchill knew almost a century ago that one day we would need to “escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing.” The absurdity of this method is heightened by the fact that we know converting raw resources into animal-derived food comes with the byproduct of climate changing greenhouse gases, ecosystem collapse, and the destruction of natural resources such as usable land and freshwater. A full 2% of GHG emissions come from dairy cows alone.
To get the chicken breast or wing, we simply need to be “growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.” More simply, we just need to culture it. While this obviously wasn’t possible in the 1930s, we’re finally living in an age where we can leverage the tools of bioengineering to grow many of these animal products directly, without the animals. By taking tighter control of the production methods, we can optimize for output and resource efficiency in a way we simply can’t if we try to optimize a whole cow or bird.