Meat the Future


(Canada, documentary Channel Original, directed by Liz Marshall)

With animal agriculture occupying roughly 45% of the world’s ice-free surface area, producing more greenhouse gases than cars, the prospect of meat consumption doubling by 2050 is a wake-up call for solutions. The future may lie with “clean meat,” also referred to as “cell-based meat,” and “cultivated meat” – a food science that grows real meat from animal cells without slaughtering animals.

Watch an interview with the director Liz Marshall and Good Food Insititue executive director Bruce Friedrich

Meat the Future chronicles the birth of a revolutionary industry, and the mission to make it delicious, affordable and sustainable. Documented exclusively from 2016-2019, by award-winning filmmaker Liz Marshall (The Ghosts in Our Machine), the film follows the victories, struggles and motivations of the pioneers who are risking everything to bring their product to market in the near future.

Meat the Future is a timely, character-driven film focusing largely on Dr. Uma Valeti, a former Mayo Clinic cardiologist, and the co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, an American food-tech start-up company. During his childhood in Vijayawada, India, Valeti would dream of meat growing on trees as an alternative to killing animals. Valeti’s co-founder, stem cell biologist Nicholas Genovese, grew up on a family farm where he considered himself the “guardian” of the animals he reluctantly sold for slaughter. Both men cite childhood memories as the motivation for their passion project.

MORE: 
New food science grows meat from cells without the need to breed, raise and slaughter animals
Documentary ‘Meat the Future’ shows us the possible future of meat

Valeti's inspiration came following his tenure at the Mayo Clinic. While practicing cardiology he was injecting stem cells into patients hearts as a part of a clinical trial to regenerate heart muscle, and it was this scientific procedure that triggered a risky, passion-driven career turn. In 2016, Memphis Meats attracted global attention with the unveiling of the world’s first “cultured” meatball, which cost $18,000 per pound, and in 2017, the world’s first “clean” chicken fillet and duck a l’orange. Together with their team of scientists, Memphis Meats is at the forefront of an industry. They have attracted tens of millions of dollars in investment from the likes of billionaire influencers Bill Gates and Richard Branson, and food giants Tyson and Cargill. Their confidence is buoyed by the plummeting price of the product-in-progress. The affordability point is approaching, as witnessed onscreen over the course of three years.

On the food policy and regulatory side, Meat the Future shifts its focus to Washington, D.C. to witness historic public meetings. Ranchers, farmers and meat lobby groups fight to protect their established brand “harvested in the traditional manner” and cell-based meat start-ups urge America to be first to market.

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And there are salivating moments as well, as top-ranked chefs perform their magic on the meat-of-the-future.

“After a documentary career of exploring global issues, I was determined to follow a solution-focused story, and in 2015, I encountered the emergence of ‘cellular agriculture,’” says director Marshall. “The future of ‘cultivated meat’ is unknown, but its revolutionary promise and journey into the world is a powerful story that I believe will stand the test of time.”

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