Geopolitical race for the future of meat
How the investment choices of today will shape the global food trade hierarchies of tomorrow
Yossi Quint
July 25, 2023

Cultivated meat is ushering in a new era of meat production where fortunes will be made and lost and geographic centers of power will shift.

The question is no longer 'if' the cultivated meat revolution will occur, but 'who will lead it?' The answer to this question will depend on the actions of builders, investors, and governments in the coming years.

The geopolitical race to own the future of meat is on 

Momentum behind cultivated meat is growing. The U.S. just approved cultivated meat sales and companies are preparing to scale up.

But the infrastructure required to support a true transformation of our food systems doesn’t yet exist. The capacity of bioreactors (the vessels in which animal cells are cultured and grown into meat) that exists today is not enough to feed even 0.01% of the global population.

The opportunity here is immense.

To date, global trade hierarchies have been based largely on geography. The winners of today are those in temperate climates with access to large grassy plains. But as cultivated meat reshapes meat production (and global foodways, too) — that stands to change.

Caption: Today global meat production is centered in areas with large grassy plains and a temperate climate, but cultivated meat has the potential to create a new set of leaders based anywhere in the world. Data from OECD (2020-2022 estimates)

The coming transformation in the way people consume protein represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape economies and redefine the global hierarchy of food importers and exporters.

The countries that invest in supporting the required large-scale infrastructure will quite literally own the future of meat production. In short: The winners of tomorrow will be determined not by location, but by an appetite to put steel in the ground. 

First-movers will yield influence, power, and wealth

A project of this scale will require massive investment and institutional support. And with this undertaking comes an opportunity for tremendous wealth creation. Capitalizing on this moment in history should be of utmost priority for governments. 

The U.S. has taken meaningful steps towards securing its place as a leader in this new food era, including being the second country in the world to approve the sale of cultivated meat. President Biden also signed an executive order to advance biotechnology and biomanufacturing

But, there is still more work to be done. Countries that move-fast, develop transparent and efficient regulatory pathways, provide economic incentives and support for factories, and help train the workforce of tomorrow will reap the benefits of housing this future industry. More specifically, there’s a need for regulatory standards that allow for cultivated meat to be brought to market like other food products, not pharmaceutical ones. This means food-grade manufacturing standards, allowing for changes in recipe and processes without red-tape, and the use of advanced technology for efficiency gains. 

The countries that stake their claim as geographic centers of this new era of food production will shape global food systems for decades to come. The nations that do so will yield significant geopolitical and economic influence, and beyond that: The winners of this race will reap the benefits of a food-secure future.

The future of meat is up for grabs. How will we move forward?

This transition is an opportunity for the U.S. to move up the scale of economic greatness. 

For the U.S. to remain a leader in protein production will require that it position itself at the center of this transformation. Doing so will require swift action. Let’s not waste any time.

By enabling the most important infrastructure buildout of this generation, we can strengthen our home supply chains, bolster our economy, and address food security — which is national security.

Cultivated meat will be the bedrock of a new economic boom.

Will we choose to capitalize on this opportunity?

Common sense tells us it’s far too risky not to.

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