Synthetic meat is the future

It sounds like science fiction, but it’s not – synthetic meat and milk will be coming to a supermarket near you.

And, according to Australia’s Beef CRC chief scientist Prof Mike Goddard synthetic proteins have the potential to change meat and dairy production in the same way the rise of affordable and functional synthetics have impacted on the wool industry.

“Much has been said about the global demand for dairy and protein, but you can actually replace meat and milk with synthetics,” Prof Goddard told a delegation of more than 300 Australian and international genomics experts gathered in Melbourne this week for Applied Genomics for Sustainable Livestock Breeding conference.

“While the synthetic meat and milk industries might have some way to go, if they can offer a product that is one tenth the cost of grain fed beef or dairy products, then they represent a very serious threat to the future of Australia’s livestock industries,” Prof Goddard said.

New genomic technologies also offer the potential to half milk and livestock production costs, improve animal welfare outcomes and reduce environmental impacts in the beef, dairy and sheep industries over the next 10-20 years, he said.

“Biology is in the midst of a genomics revolution. The cost of the genome sequence has dropped 1 000 000 fold in a decade.”

Already, the global dairy industry uses “genomic selection” to identify superior breeding stock and this use of DNA markers is expected to double the rate of genetic gain in dairy cattle.

On the home front, information from genetic sequencing is incorporated in some dairy and beef estimated breeding values and breeders are able to test animals for some commercially significant traits from about $180/head.

“Application of genomic selection in beef cattle and sheep has also commenced and will gradually become and major part of genetic programs in all livestock,” he said.