Liz Marshall’s feature-length documentary Meat The Future about the cultured meat industry premiered on streaming platforms worldwide in April on Apple TV+, Amazon
The documentary analyzes the birth and growth of the cultured meat industry, where meat is grown from stem cells instead of animals. Again, from a sustainability perspective, decrease the need for massive amounts of industrial agriculture and slaughterhouses which, in the long run, are considered inefficient.
Marshall – being a vegan – was asked in her interview with Time magazine, coinciding with the release of the article, whether there were “doubts or dislikes” in the field as food grown in vats seen in the dystopian programming is superimposed with a grim future for humanity.
“Sure. But then it normalized for me. It really made sense,” she said.
“I never claim it’s the silver bullet that will change the world. But I hope it will transform the food system. In the meantime, this movie is a historical document. It’s the only movie in the world that chronicles the birth of this industry, told through the eyes of a cardiologist who took that very risky turn to become CEO and founder of the world’s first 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 general surprise at making the film and discovering new information about the industry, she said, “At the time we started, the idea was extremely new, marginal and abstract. And I think that’s still the case, although for a lot of people there’s growing interest.
She later added the development of the industry since filming and release, as there is now cultured meat on supermarket shelves, “because of the fear of zoonotic diseases and because of the need for solutions to problems with our food system. I think it’s only a matter of time.”
The documentary certainly worked to inspire by creating a zeitgeist of possibility and hope in the region. Especially seeing the growth of the concept between filming and release.
Rahim Rajwani is the founder and strategic advisor of Atelier Meats, one of many companies that have taken inspiration from the documentary. Similar to Upside Foods, Atelier Meats is a biotech company dedicated to developing quality, lab-grown, flavorful, wholesome, and competitively priced meats for human consumption.
On the industry, Rajwani went into a deeper analysis of its success. “Using animals to turn plants into meat is very inefficient. 77% of the world’s agricultural land is occupied by livestock, even though it represents only 18% of the calories consumed by humans. Growing beef directly is ultimately more efficient than using land. This lends itself to massive environmental sustainability and economic shifts.
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 potable water is scarce.
On his inspiration to work in cultured meat, apart from the documentary supporting his thoughts on growing the business, he added, “I originally started a plant-based foods business and as I learned more about the plant-based sector I came across the cultured meat sector.
“It became clear through multiple discussions and research that the herbal sector was not only saturated with different products, but a number of the ingredients in those products were actually unhealthy.”
Continuing, he said: “Cultured meat, however, is real meat, grown in the laboratory, which allows scientists to ensure quality and the best sanitary standards, including the ability to avoid any unnecessary antibiotics and d other food-borne illnesses often linked to slaughterhouses. Once I set out to continue learning more about the cultured meat business, it became clear to me that this was going to be the evolution of food and had the added benefits of environmental and health benefits.
With the development of a new sector and the often important role that film and television play in educating the masses, also comes the need for government reform. Something that has also started to take shape.
“The political side of government also started to change rapidly,” 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 many products from Singapore stores.”
“European countries, Canada and the United States have all 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 more evident how critical the media is to the understanding and education necessary for the mass adoption of positive sustainable developments.
The unscripted sector in particular continued to pioneer the coverage of groundbreaking new thoughts and ideas to enable – and ultimately promote – societal change.