Why We’re Supporting the Development of a Cultivated Meat Industry In Australia
By Samuel Wines
A New Era of Sustainable Food Production
In the race against climate change and the search for sustainable food alternatives, a new player has entered the field – cultivated meat. This innovative approach to meat production, involving the lab-grown cultivation of meat from animal cells, offers a compelling, sustainable solution that aligns with the increasing consumer demand for responsible sources of protein. Australia, with its robust agricultural sector and commitment to sustainability, stands in an advantageous position to capitalise on this promising industry.
The Economic Case for Cultivated Meat
The rise of the cultivated meat industry presents a unique economic opportunity for Australia. According to Magic Valley, one of our startups working on cultivated meat, this nascent industry harbours the potential to invigorate the Australian economy, creating thousands of jobs spanning production, processing, and marketing. Another one of our members, Vow, shared a similar sentiment. They’ve boldly stated that they plan to help make Australia a world leader in cultured meat, which, after raising a $49.2 M Series A, and building one of the world’s largest cultivated meat factories in Sydney, feels like they are putting their money where their mouth is. Beyond immediate job creation, establishing a cultivated meat sector would stimulate the agricultural industry. Unlike traditional livestock farming, cultivated meat production relies on inputs such as animal cells and growth media, likely sourced from Australia. Consequently, this would open a novel market within the agricultural sector, aiding farming communities nationwide.
Export Potential of Cultivated Meat
As global demand for sustainable protein alternatives increases, the prospect of exporting cultivated meat introduces an exciting avenue for Australia. By pioneering this industry, Australia can position itself as a global leader in sustainable food solutions, thereby augmenting its export income. This innovative industry could significantly contribute to Australia’s economic growth, simultaneously fortifying its international reputation as a champion of sustainability.
The Environmental Imperative: Sustainable Protein Solutions
Amid the pressing need to mitigate the environmental impacts of traditional livestock farming, the cultivation of meat emerges as a promising alternative. Cultivated meat production dramatically reduces greenhouse gas emissions and land use compared to conventional meat production. This resonates with a growing faction of Australian consumers who are increasingly environmentally conscious and seek sustainable protein sources.
The Social Impact of Cultivated Meat
The emergence of a cultivated meat industry in Australia can also bring substantial social benefits. When we think about it, no matter how you slice it, an abattoir is not the nicest of places to spend your final hours on planet Earth (or any hours, to be honest). So in a way, being able to find an alternative to commercially slaughtering animals for food via cultivated meat, offers a more humane and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional meat. Aligning with the wider societal shift towards more ethical patterns of consumption. Moreover, new job creation in this industry could contribute to economic recovery post-pandemic, aiding communities across Australia.
Embracing the Future of Food
In summary, the cultivated meat industry provides a viable pathway towards more sustainable and resilient food systems here in Australia. By creating new jobs, supporting the agricultural sector, and opening up new export opportunities, this industry holds immense promise from an economic perspective. As Australia navigates its post-pandemic economic recovery, the burgeoning cultivated meat sector can be a cornerstone of this process, marrying economic progress with environmental stewardship. Which, unfortunately, always sounds a little bit greenwashy.
As always, here at CoLabs, we like to check our biases and ensure that we’re conducting good sensemaking, so there are also a few caveats worth noting.
- Energy consumption: For example, although they fart out a bunch of methane, cows are super energy efficient and don’t need constant energy from the grid to produce more cows.
- Material consumption: Livestock are living systems, which means, like all other lifeforms on Earth, they are comprised mostly of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur and phosphorus. These also happen to be superabundant and readily available within the biosphere. On the other hand, there are not many 1000L bioreactors out there roaming around in the wild. Rather, we need to mine, refine, reshape and meld multiple metals together, meaning we’ve got one hell of a material footprint needed to make this happen at scale.
- High Cost: Currently, the production of cultivated meat is super exxy. However, like with all industries, this is expected to reduce over time.
- Environmental Impact of Inputs: The production of cultured meat requires inputs such as culture media, growth factors, and scaffolding materials. These will need to be from renewable and sustainable sources if it is to be a truly sustainable alternative.
That said, the future of food is knocking on Australia’s door, and we think it is time to open it. For further insights into the fascinating world of cultivated meat, check out two of our members at CoLabs, Magic Valley and Vow. Or check out the amazing work of one of our partners, Cellular Agriculture Australia.