As more and more companies in the cell-based meat space migrate from prototype to full pilot production phase, one of the questions that we need to start thinking about is how exactly all this meat will be made at scale.
Sure, scaled production is likely 10 years out for many of these companies, but the reality is re-configuring an industry as big and significant as meat, poultry or fish production will be a herculean task, so it’s worth starting the conversation now.
One of the futuristic visions I keep hearing about is the idea of “meat breweries“, where buildings host giant bioreactors that grow cultured meat.
It’s a weird concept now, but in fifteen years time there’s a good chance we’ll need meat breweries sprinkled throughout the country (and globe) if we plan to get anywhere near the volume of production where cell-based meat can account for 35% of all meat consumed predicted by consulting firm AT Kearney by 2045.
If we’re going to use the brewery concept as a model to frame the conversation, it’s worth comparing the idea of meat “brewing” to that of traditional beer brewing market and ask: will meat breweries be something akin to big high-production beer breweries like those of Anheuser-Busch, producing a bunch of meat centrally and shipping around the country?
Or, alternatively, will meat brewing be something closer to the microbrewery model where meat is made city-by-city for consumption within a hundred mile radius?
My best guess based on conversations with early entrepreneurs in this space is the meat-brewing production model will be much closer to how one makes my favorite local IPA to than, say, Budweiser. In other words: There will be lots of meat breweries around the country and around the world, producing cell-based meat to be consumed locally.
So where will these meat breweries be built? The reality is that while cell-based meat production can certainly be done in a building built on farmland (and I definitely think livestock farmers should consider such a thing), the reality is that meat brewing can and will be done just about anywhere where there is space. Space like in old factories, warehouses, empty office parks and even restaurants. Just as with today’s brewpubs, you can even envision some restaurants that make their meat on site in the future.
And then there’s empty shopping malls and abandoned retail spaces. Retail real estate demand is shrinking quickly and likely won’t come back as more people buy online and work remotely. We’ve already seen some empty retail locations turned into vertical farms, so why not think about turning these spaces into the meat farms of the future?
No matter where we decide to put these future cell-based meat, poultry and fish production facilities, chances are we will need a lot of them. Those developers, entrepreneurs and city planners that start envisioning a future now that includes distributed cell-based meat production could help us usher in the cultured meat farmers and fishermen of the future.