© Photos and content by Meghann Jarchow and Alexa Kruse. 

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Public Opinion of Technology Revolutions in Animal Agriculture

This project is a new segment of the Water Agriculture Food Energy Research Nexus (WAFERx). WAFERx includes multiple universities all of which measure the impact of adopting Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and storage in the Upper Missouri River Basin. The inspiration stemmed from a request by WAFERx in which they asked whether there is something unique that could drastically change the way our land is used in this region. Dr. Jarchow and Jade Muller-Smit have a particular interest in the environmental impact of animal agriculture as well as potential solutions to the inefficiency of meat production: laboratory-grown and plant-based meat. Laboratory-grown and plant-based meat have multiple advantages to current meat production.

1.  Environmental impact: About 70% of arable land is used for livestock feed. Livestock is responsible for about 18% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Nearly one third of all freshwater consumption is used for the production of meat and dairy. Replacing conventional meat with lab-grown meat offers an estimated 78-98% reduction of GHG emissions, a 99% reduction in land use, a 82-96% reduction in water use, and a 45% reduction in energy use.

2.  Health impact: There are many benefits of plant-based foods such as decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. 

3.  Ethical argument: Killing billions of animals each year for human consumption with most being raised, for at least a portion of their lives, in concentrated animal feeding operations raises ethical concerns for the animals’ welfare. 

Laboratory-grown meat is meat that is grown from a small biopsy does not harm the animal, the process is similar to a blood draw. Scientists then culture the tissue growth outside of an animal’s body. 

 

Although there have been recent technological advances in the development of laboratory-grown meat, it is not clear whether people will eat it. That is the focus of Jade's research. She analyzed some of the psychological factors that could play a role in willingness to consume these new products. She also researched theories that describe people’s values toward and attachment to meat. For example, carnism is a concept that describes the way in which people advocate for the use and consumption of animal products.

 

The extent to which laboratory-grown and plant-based meat can serve as an alternative to currently produced meat is wholly dependent upon consumers’ willingness to consume these products. The primary purpose of this study is to determine what factors influence individuals’ willingness to consume these products. 

This research is ongoing. Please contact Jade Muller-Smit (contact information can be found on the Team page) for more information.