Meat the Future
Dr Uma Valeti, Nicholas Genovese
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…an important story in the evolution of our planet…
“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat a breast or a wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium,” predicted Winston Churchill in 1931. Fast forward to the present and we’re closer than ever to achieving this milestone thanks to the co-founders of Memphis Meats; biologist Nicholas Genovese and cardiologist Dr Uma Valeti, in writer/director Liz Marshall’s (The Ghosts in Our Machine) latest documentary Meat the Future.
Marshall’s socially conscious roots are revisited as she chronicles the birth of a revolutionary new industry, manufacturing ‘clean meat’ via cellular agriculture.
Dr Valeti spent his early years in Vijayawada, India where he dreamt of growing meat on trees as an alternative to killing animals. Genovese grew up on a family farm considering himself the ‘guardian’ of the animals he reluctantly sold for slaughter. By combining their skills, they found a way of using biotechnology to grow cell-based meat from animal cells without slaughtering animals or flattening forests to create more farmland.
Marshall’s film follows the rather rapid upward trajectory of the Memphis Meats business start-up, from being asked questions about in-vitro meat and creating ‘Franken Burgers’, to investment by the likes of Richard Branson and Bill Gates. Footage of large-scale intensive animal farming and the fact that these same creatures produce more CO2 than all the cars on the planet adds to the compelling argument for growing steak in a lab.
Opposing views are briefly touched upon during a combined USDA [US Dept. of Agriculture] and FDA [Food & Drug Administration] conference on the future branding of ‘clean meat’ where Stetson-wearing American Cattle Association folk protest that the word meat shouldn’t be associated with Memphis Meat products at all.
What’s in a name when 45% of the earth’s ice-free surface area is devoted to animal agriculture? Raising beef takes around 24 months on large tracts of land; beef created by stem cells is ready for the plate in 4 to 6 weeks, no harm done.
Meat the future expounds very little argument against the product it depicts and there doesn’t appear to be one. A debate that could have been touched upon would be what a vegan or vegetarian would think of harm-free meat? Raising the ‘steaks’ may have made viewing a little more compelling. That said, it’s an important story in the evolution of our planet and we’re lucky visionaries like Valeti and Genovese are pointing it in the right direction.