Liz Marshall’s feature-length documentary Meat The Future on the cultured meat industry premiered on streaming platforms worldwide in April on Apple TV+, Amazon
The documentary examines the birth and growth of the cultured meat industry, where meat is grown from stem cells instead of animals. Once again, from a sustainability perspective, reducing the need for massive amounts of industrial agriculture and slaughterhouses, which, in the long run, are seen as inefficient.
Marshall – herself a vegan – was asked in her interview with Time magazine, coinciding with the article’s publication, if there was “any doubt or impasse” in the subject area as the food grown in the cauldrons seen in the dystopian programs is stratified with a bleak future for humanity.
“Of course. But then it became normal for me. It really made sense,” she said.
“I never claim that this is the silver bullet that will change the world. But I hope it transforms the food system. Meanwhile, this film is a historical document. It’s the only film in the world that shows the birth of this industry, told through the eyes of a cardiologist who took this very risky career turn to become the CEO and founder of the world’s leading cultured meat company.”
The meat company in question is Upside Foods founded by Uma Valenti, a former cardiologist and professor at the University of Minnesota.
Of the overall surprise of making the film and discovering new information about the sector, she said: “At the time we started, the whole idea was extremely new, marginal and abstract. And I think it still is, although for many people there is more and more interest.”
She later added the development of the industry since filming and publishing, as there is now cultured meat on supermarket shelves, “because of the fear of zoonotic diseases and because of the need to solve problems with our food system. I think it’s just a matter of time.”
The documentary certainly worked to inspire by creating a zeitgeist of possibility and hope in the area. Especially seeing the growth of the concept between filming and release.
Rahim Rajwani is the founder and strategic advisor of Atelier Meats, one of the many companies that were inspired by the documentary. Similar to Upside Foods, Atelier Meats is a biotechnology company dedicated to developing quality, lab-grown, delicious, healthy and competitively priced meats for human consumption.
As for the industry, Rajwani went into a deeper analysis of its success. “Using animals to turn plants into meat is very inefficient. 77% of global agricultural land is taken by livestock, even though it accounts for only 18% of the calories consumed by humans. Direct beef raising is ultimately more efficient than land use. This lends itself to massive environmental sustainability and economic change.”
He continued, “Current industrial farming practices create an environment of disease and hazardous waste. Livestock waste also causes water pollution, which is dangerous to public health, especially in areas where clean water is scarce.”
On his inspiration to work in the cultured meat area, outside of the documentary supporting his thoughts on growing the trade, he added: “Initially, I started a plant-based food company and as I learned more about the plant-based sector I encountered in the cultured meat sector.”
“It became clear through some discussion and research that the plant-based sector was not only saturated with different products, but a number of the ingredients in those products were actually unhealthy.”
Continuing, he opined, “Culturized meat, however, is real meat, grown in a lab, which allows scientists to ensure the best quality and health standards, including the ability to avoid any unnecessary antibiotics and other foodborne illnesses, often linked to slaughterhouses. Once I started the journey to continue learning more about the cultured meat sector, it became clear to me that this would be the evolution of food and would have the added benefits of environmental and health benefits.”
With the development of a new sector and the often important role that film and TV play in educating the masses, comes the need for government reform. Something that is also starting to take shape.
“The policy side of the government has also started changing fast,” Rajwani said.
“Singapore has taken the lead as the first country in the world to approve and regulate cultured meat products, and consumers can now purchase multiple products in stores across Singapore.”
“European countries, Canada and the US have begun to structure the regulatory regime to monitor and ensure the quality of cultured meat products.”
With the popularity of Meat The Future and its impact on the sector, it is even clearer how vital the media is to the understanding and education needed for mass adoption of positive sustainable developments.
The non-fiction sector has continued to pioneer the coverage of new thinking and innovative ideas to enable – and ultimately promote – social change.