Picture this. Sitting at the dinner table 50 years from now, you explain to your grandchildren that meat was once grown on living beings—who were bred, fed, transported, slaughtered, and carved up—all for a meal that could be contaminated with harmful pathogens, growth hormones, and antibiotic residue.
You’re met with expressions of confusion and disgust as they contemplate such a costly, cruel, and resource-intensive method of food production. Moments later, you all tuck into dinner—sausages made at the local meat brewery by feeding cow cells nutrients inside tall, steel bioreactors.
It may sound like an excerpt from a futuristic science-fiction story, but it’s a scenario that could become reality sooner than we think. And that’s a good thing.
To say current day meat production is problematic would be a colossal understatement. It’s an industry at the center of every major environmental problem—from climate change and water shortages to deforestation and the collapse of ocean ecosystems. It is also fuelling many global health crises: the rise of non-communicable diseases, the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and malnutrition in regions where grain is bought up by multinationals to feed livestock, pushing food prices beyond the affordability of local communities.
“Clean” or “cultured” meat, grown by feeding nutrients directly to animal cells collected through a tiny biopsy, can address all of these problems. It’s better for the world—and for us.
If it seems unnatural to grow meat in a mineral culture, one should re-examine how meat is produced today. Supermarket fridges are lined with animals whose genes were manipulated through selective breeding to change their physiology and growth rates. Some are given synthetic hormones. Many live in their own waste in overcrowded sheds and are fed antibiotics to prevent infections that are common in such unnatural and unsanitary environments.
Clean meat is anatomically identical to animal flesh—because that’s precisely what it is—but without any drugs, animal suffering, or the need for large expanses of land and water.
So considering we can create a delicious, juicy, sizzling burger that is a win-win across the board, why wouldn’t we embrace it as the future of food? Just as motorcars replaced horse-drawn carriages and new fuels replaced whale oil, innovations like clean meat will replace factory farmed meat, with enormous positive repercussions for humanity.
With more and more scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, activists, and governments coming together to champion this revolutionary technology, creating a truly safe and sustainable food system can become a reality. Orchestrating the growth of this multisector ecosystem is Food Frontier’s mission, and it’s the most exciting project of my life.
Thomas King founded Food Frontier to create a healthier, more sustainable food system by accelerating groundbreaking meat alternatives to animal agriculture. He was named Young Australian of the Year (VIC) in 2015.