A few years ago, Ilttud Dunsford founded a specialty meat processing business, selling a variety of bacon and sausage products. The company was an instant success, immediately granting the title of Best Food Producer in the UK at the 2016 BBC Food and Farming Awards.
However, getting concerned about the ecosystem and sustainability, Dunsford found himself being pulled in a completely different direction.
The same year, he co-founded a cultured meat company “Cellular Agriculture Ltd.”, it was the first start-up of its kind in the UK.
What is cultured meat?
Cultured meat is created using in vitro cultivation of animal cells. The final product is the same as meat on a cellular level, but it's produced without killing animals.
The welfare of animals is not the only thing drawing consumers to cell-based meat; the product has a lighter impact on the planet too. Raising animals for food, especially beef, is linked by some to rises in greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and pollution, though pea production for plant-based food pretty much does the same.
Cell-based meat can sidestep these concerns. Cellular agriculturists can also tweak the nutritional profile of cultured meat to be healthier by lowering the amount of fat it contains.
Food tech companies are producing also cell-based lobster, beef, chicken, dairy, and pork, just to name a few recently we even have companies are working on cell-based pet food, too.
Dunsford, who is also the CEO of the start-up, told us that in 2015, he attended a symposium hosted by Professor Mark Post, who presented the world's first cell-based hamburger two years prior. He said it was revelatory for him that there was a technology that could provide the specific part of the animal that the consumer wanted to consume.
Dunsford believes the technology can help sustainably feed the world's ever-growing population.
“The ultimate aim is to build industrial factories that produce food that isn't detrimental to the planet in its production methods and which reduces food poverty. With a forecast population of 10 billion by 2050, we need to feed all those additional people in order for us to have the best opportunity possible to tackle the challenges that face humankind,” he said.
The farm-to-cell shift might raise eyebrows for some since Dunsford's family has a long agricultural extending for up to more than 300 years.
Dunsford believes that farmers play a key role in the cellular agriculture industry. He also noted that a decline in traditional meat means that the land can be used for other purposes.
“It allows us to consider holistic approaches to regenerative methods of farming that have high natural value,” the CEO said. “The challenge that we face is to produce nutrient-dense foods while limiting the impact on the planet and securing our soils so that future generations can feed themselves.”
“Farmers are hugely innovative, hard-working business people who are extremely experienced in working with tight regulations,” Dunsford said.
“With new opportunities, I'm confident that the cellular-agriculture sector won't be quite such a lonely place for me as a farmer in the future.”