Getting to Know the Space: Cellular Agriculture for Newbies
So you are a student and want to learn more about cellular agriculture but you don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place! We want to make sure that the vast amount of information that exists on the Internet doesn’t overwhelm you and help you get an idea of the space in general. What follows below is not an in-depth introduction to the science, history, or purpose behind cellular agriculture - that will follow later, in different posts or links. Here, we simply want to provide a beginner’s overview of the types of information out there.
1. The Twin Portals of Cellular Agriculture: The Good Food Institute and New Harvest
The Good Food Institute (GFI) and New Harvest are the biggest and most well known organizations that offer the most comprehensive information on cellular agriculture.
Before we talk about what differentiates them, we want to emphasize that GFI is the larger, more inclusive of the two because it covers a lot of very useful information about alternative proteins that includes plant-based protein. New Harvest, on the other hand, focuses almost exclusively on cell-based proteins like cultured meat, dairy, and eggs.
The GFI has information about both, academic research and the business side of cellular agriculture whereas New Harvest focuses more on academic research. GFI has lots of information for entrepreneurs and start-up companies interested in alternative proteins, and strongly supports private companies in nearly all stages of development. GFI also updates their news site with what companies are doing at any given time. It’s a great place to scroll through what is happening in the space.
New Harvest prominently features ongoing research, most of which they fund, which is an excellent way to learn not only where and what kinds of research is currently ongoing, but it also features mentorship relationships between graduate students and experts in the field. Most of the projects featured list a short objective or description of the project, the project's principal investigator, the grant amount, the graduate student, and where the project is taking place.
2. Hit the Books: Three Essentials Readings
Here, too, we start with three books that really give you an easy way into the field. An absolute must, and the best book to start with is Paul Shapiro’s Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World.
The next book is Ben Wurgaft’s Meat Planet: Artificial Flesh and the Future of Food. Ben’s work gives readers a critical analysis of cultured meat that is well balanced and offers a more historical and philosophical account of the subject.
The last in the series, Jacy Reese’s The End of Animal Farming: How Scientists, Entrepreneurs, and Activists are Building an Animal-Free Food System, is not a book about cellular agriculture per se but it nicely illustrates solutions to problems of animal agriculture. It is also very accessible to people who are new to animal agriculture in general.
There are of course a lot of other books out there that focus on the problems with animal agriculture and related topics but here we want to stay focused on solutions to the problem.
3. Academic Journal Articles: Introductory Readings
There are many different types of scholarly articles that address cellular agriculture and it is too large of a task to compile an introductory reading list that covers technological, biomedical, engineering, legal, marketing, or consumer-oriented research here. Since we are social scientists, we tend to be most interested in social or cultural aspects that address the challenges with transitioning to cellular agriculture, in particular eating cultured meat. This means that beyond articles that address the overall advantages of cultured meat, most of our interests lie in consumer studies, surveys, and qualitative research. However, the following articles listed give newcomers a basic idea about cellular agriculture that would make a good foundation for further reading. You should definitely start with the first one on the list (Bhat et al.) as we find it to be a good, comprehensive introductory text.
Another excellent way to learn about cellular agriculture is to watch key people in the space talk about it. Both GFI and New Harvest have videos featuring founders and organizational leaders giving compelling talks that are both informative and entertaining. Here are a few to get you started:
Paul Shapiro: Clean Meat: The Clean Energy of Food
Bruce Friedrich: The next global agricultural revolution
Isha Datar: Re-thinking Meat
Kate Krueger: Careers in Cellular Agriculture
Mark Post: Cultured beef for food security and the environment
5. The Good Food Institute Student Resources
The GFI has a great collection of resources specifically for students. From the homepage, click “Resources” and you’ll land on the following page:
You get an easy-to-navigate overview of everything you need to know to get into the space. The GFI also has a person dedicated to educating students about alternative proteins. Her name is Amy Huang and she is GFI’s University Innovation Specialist. She is a super nice lady and very approachable! She can answer specific questions you might have beyond the extensive guide offered on the site. She can also send you a detailed step-by-step guide on how to start your own cellular agriculture student organization on your college campus.
If you have specific questions about how to get involved with New Harvest, reach out to Meera Zassenhaus who is New Harvest's contact for community engagement.