Imagine a world where our insatiable demand for meat could be satisfied without slaughtering countless animals. A little over a decade ago this would have been considered a pipe dream, but now it seems like an inevitable reality in Liz Marshall’s latest documentary Meat the Future. Focusing on the emergence of “clean meat”, affordable and sustainable meat products made by harvesting animal tissue from cells, Marshall’s film presents an eye-opening look at how science is revolutionizing the meat industry.
The brainchild of former cardiologist and co-founder Uma Valeti, Memphis Meats is changing the meat industry one cell at a time. Successfully producing an edible meatball from a cell of a cow, the company has rapidly become a major innovator in sustainable meats. With subsequent breakthroughs in the realm of poultry, Memphis Meats has been able to attract key investors such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson.
While the influx in financial backing allows the company to inch closer to their goal of expanding the size and scope of production, the question remains are consumers ready for “clean meat”?
Meat the Future makes several compelling arguments for why consumers should get onboard with the clean meat revolution. Just as with her award-winning film The Ghost in Our Machine, which explored the idea that animals are sentient beings and needed to be treated as such, Marshall does not shy away from the pro-animal safety commentary. However, the implications of clean meat go well beyond saving the lives of livestock. The film touches on the massive impact that clean meat will have on the environment, including reducing the gas emissions that cow, poultry and pig farms generate.
Though Marshall’s film does a solid job of explaining the process of producing clean meat in an easily digestible way, the scant running time does not allow for much discussion from those within the meat industry or general consumers. Marshall includes footage of the various ways lobbyist and farmers using their influence to get the FDA and USFDA to block Valeti’s company from using the word “meat” on their products. While an obvious tactic to maintain the current monopoly of the industry, a little more dissection of the anti-clean meat arguments, even if to expose how unfounded they are, would have been beneficial to the film. At the very least it would have been interesting to see what consumers, who are growing increasingly more comfortable with plant-based alternatives, think about clean meat.
Marshall’s documentary may lean heavily on the side of clean meat, but it is easy to see why. Our current infrastructures simply cannot produce the required amount of animal feed or animals to meet the demand. If clean meat can meet those needs without harming animals or impacting jobs, then the sky is the limit. Could clean meat be one of the tools used to combat food shortages worldwide? While only time will tell, Meat the Future is a film that will leave you with plenty to chew on.
Meat the Future will air on Thursday May 7 at 8 pm on CBC, 9 pm ET/PT on documentary Channel