Frequently asked questions

We answer your common questions about cellular agriculture to help further your understanding of this developing industry.

What is cellular agriculture?

Cellular agriculture uses cells and innovative technologies to produce new ingredients, food and agricultural products. The sector is working to create a range of nutritious products ethically and sustainably.

What products are made using cellular agriculture?

The most common food and ingredients being created by cellular agriculture technologies are meat, seafood, dairy proteins and fats, which are typically derived from animals. Cellular agriculture can also be used to make human breast milk as well as other products such as coffee, chocolate and palm oil. 

Our focus, which is mirrored by the demographic of companies currently in Australia, is on cellular agriculture used for the production of food (both animal and non-animal sources). This is because of the potential to create a better food system for animals, people and the planet.

What technologies does cellular agriculture involve?

There are a range of technologies used within cellular agriculture, however Cellular Agriculture Australia currently focuses on precision fermentation, cell cultivation, gas fermentation, and molecular farming.

What is precision fermentation?

Precision fermentation harnesses microorganisms (yeast, bacteria, etc.) to produce specific functional ingredients.

These ingredients can be used in a range of food and agricultural products, such as egg and dairy proteins, fats and oils.

What is cell cultivation?

Cell cultivation involves isolating and cultivating cells from an animal to make products such as meat, seafood, leather and fat; or from plants to make products like coffee and chocolate.

Cultivated meat can replicate the sensory and nutritional profile of traditional food products because it is composed of the same cell types arranged into the same or similar structures as those found in animal tissues.

The foundation of this technology is well-researched for regenerative medicine applications (tissue engineering) and researchers are currently developing methods to apply it at scale for commercial food production in Australia.

What is gas fermentation?

The process of gas fermentation starts by inserting the gene of a target ingredient/product into a microorganism as with precision fermentation. However, gas fermentation involves creating an environment where the targeted microorganisms can live in water. The microorganisms are fed tiny bubbles of CO2 and nutrients, like nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium – the same nutrients that plants absorb through their roots from soil. The microorganism is then fermented, where it produces the targeted functional ingredient/product, which is then extracted from the microorganism and purified. This ingredient can then be used in a range of food products.

Gas fermentation is currently being used by several companies. For example, Solar Foods have developed a dry powder comprised of 65-70% protein called “Solein,” which can be used as a protein replacement in a range of food products.

How are cultivated meat, seafood and other agricultural products made?

The process of cell cultivation involves taking cells from an animal or plant and placing them into an environment that provides them with the nutrients and conditions they need to grow.

Here, they first multiply in number, and then mature into specific tissues such as muscle and fat. In some cases, the cell multiplication and maturation phases could occur at the same time.

Once mature, the tissues are collected, and commonly combined with other ingredients to make a range of final products. The products, which can include cultivated meat and seafood, will be made in food manufacturing facilities.

How are precision-fermented ingredients made?

The process of precision fermentation typically involves inserting the gene of a target ingredient into a microorganism (yeast, bacteria, etc.).

This microorganism then ferments to produce the targeted functional ingredient, which is then extracted from the microorganism and purified. This process takes place in food manufacturing facilities

The target ingredient can then be used in existing products (such as the creation of precision-fermented animal fats to improve the taste and mouthfeel of existing plant-based meat products) or to create new ones (like precision-fermented dairy milk!).

Why do we need cellular agriculture?

The global demand for food may increase by 50% by 2050 (Reference), and we cannot meet this demand sustainably or ethically with current production methods alone.

Cellular agriculture is one of many solutions required to ensure an ethical, accessible and sustainable food system into the future.

It has the potential to overcome six critical challenges facing our current agricultural and food system, including:

  1. Food insecurity
  2. Deforestation
  3. Biodiversity loss
  4. Climate change
  5. Public health
  6. Animal welfare

Its actual impact will depend on numerous decisions cellular agriculture companies will have to make as they move towards commercial scale.

More details can be found about the six impact areas on our home page.

Will cellular agriculture products be more sustainable?

It is projected that cellular agriculture will potentially be a more sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture, and in particular intensive industrialised practices.

Due to the stage the industry is at, large scale life cycle analyses (LCAs) conducted on actual practices have not yet been performed. In saying this, a small number of predictive LCAs have been conducted since 2011.

This 2019 report concluded that cultivated meat may not produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than beef, unless it uses a non-carbon energy source. However in early 2023, this report concluded that even with conventional energy, cultivated meat is still likely to outperform current beef production in terms of GHG emissions.

For chicken, the most efficient meat, this could be 55% fewer emissions, for pork it could mean 65% fewer emissions and for beef, the reduction could be as high as 96% if renewable energy is used. In terms of land use, water use and pollution, the report concluded it is also very likely to vastly outperform all conventional meat production. 

A 2021 report concluded that precision fermented milk outperforms traditional dairy milk in water use, non-renewable energy input and greenhouse gas production.

For a more in-depth summary of the current LCAs available for both precision fermentation and cell cultivated see p. 28 of this report by the UNEP.

What benefits could cellular agriculture deliver?

Cellular agriculture may give us the opportunity to improve our food system in novel ways. By harnessing cutting-edge biotechnologies, particular foods could be made to be more nutritious, healthy or flavourful, or even less allergenic than they are now!

Cellular agriculture also allows us to explore entirely new foods and flavour profiles that we previously could not have imaged.

By creating a new way to feed and clothe us we can cellular agriculture also presents the opportunity to:

  • Reduce the environmental impact of animal farming, fishing. or other agricultural practices
  • Reduce animal suffering
  • Reduce the risk of animal-human diseases
  • Reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance
  • Reduce the risk of food shortages caused by adverse weather events, pandemics or political disruption.

However, many of the positive benefits listed above will depend on many decisions companies make as they design, build and optomise their manufacturing facilities.

Are cellular agriculture products already on the global market?


Cellular agriculture technology has been used to make insulin for 40 years. It is also widely used to make rennet – which is used in most cheesemaking today. In 2013, the world’s first cultivated meat product, a burger, was produced in the Netherlands. In 2020, Singapore approved the commercial sale of cultivated meat, followed by approval in the United States in 2023, and Israel in 2024.

Is there a cellular agriculture industry in Australia?


There is a growing ecosystem of companies in Australia already producing cellular agriculture prototypes and preparing for approval to sell commercially. Australia is home to companies making a variety of cultivated meat and precision-fermented products

An up-to-date list of cellular agriculture companies, universities and investors can be found on our industry map.

Is the technology safe?


Precision fermentation has been used for decades in both pharmaceutical and food industries, so its safety is long proven. And their application in food products, such as precision fermented dairy, has been approved for sale and is available in the US, India, Israel, and Canada.

For products produced through cell cultivation, products have undergone rigorous and stringent testing in order to be approved as food-safe in multiple countries. The Singapore Food Agency, Food and Drug Administration & USDA (United States), as well as the Israeli Health Ministry have approved cultivated meat as safe for human consumption.

These findings are also reflected in a recent FAO report, which concluded that the overall risk of cultivated meat was no greater than that seen with conventional meat products.

In December 2023, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand’s (FSANZ) landmark assessment of a cultivated quail product identified no safety concerns. Given Australia’s reputation for stringent food safety standards and regulation, this assessment is a significant step forward in validating the safety of cultivated food products.

Do cellular agriculture products require genetic modification?

No, not necessarily, but that depends on the technologies and processes used.

To produce cultivated meat and seafood, genetic modification is not required, but it could potentially be used to safely boost the taste and nutrition of products, or improve resource efficiency. For consumers who don’t want their products to be genetically modified, several companies have committed to not using these methods.

The production of precision-fermented ingredients does typically involve the genetic modification of microorganisms. Typically, it involves modifying their DNA to produce specific functional ingredients such as proteins, fats or other molecules that are otherwise naturally produced, for example by animals. However, the ‘end product’ molecules are separated out and therefore free of any modified genetic material (DNA). However, there are cases where precision fermentation may be utilised without the need for genetic modification.

In other words, whilst genetic engineering is often a part of the precision fermentation process, end products do not contain GMOs.

How do cellular agriculture products compare on nutrition?

There is currently limited research into the long-term health and nutrition impacts of cellular agriculture products. 

However, products made through cellular agriculture can potentially have a similar nutritional profile to conventional products. In FSANZ’s food safety assessment of Vow’s cultured quail (the first assessment of its kind in Australia), no nutritional safety concerns were identified. 

Cellular agriculture may also enable us to more precisely control the levels of nutrients in products. It could also be used to boost the density of nutrients or curb saturated fats in our food without sacrificing taste or texture.

Will the cellular agriculture industry create jobs?

Cellular agriculture will create a wide range of technical and non-technical roles across science, engineering, commerce and others as the industry develops. People skilled in tissue engineering, biotechnology and commercialisation will be in particular demand.

Farmers and agricultural experts can also play an important role in this nascent field. Cellular agriculture technologies are highly reliant on primary agricultural inputs such as feedstocks, and molecular farming often utilises and leverages existing field crops. So, the knowledge and capabilities of the existing agricultural industry will be imperative to the success of cellular agriculture.

How will the cellular agriculture sector intersect with traditional agricultural industries?

Cellular agriculture is one of a range of solutions needed to help Australia more sustainably meet a growing global demand for protein, generating income and jobs across our country. It is an opportunity to diversify and strengthen Australia’s agricultural system, which we believe will complement, not replace, our existing traditional agriculture industries.

A number of companies and think-tanks have already been involved in the development of mutually beneficial partnerships with existing agricultural producers and food manufacturers. Incumbents are beginning to see cellular agriculture products as complementary to the existing market and a number have invested in the plant-based meat and cellular agriculture industries.

Farmers can play an important role in this nascent field - Cellular agriculture technology is actually highly reliant on primary agricultural inputs such as feedstocks, making the collaboration with the traditional agricultural industry imperative to its success. Here is one farmer’s perspective on this.

Additionally, molecular farming technology relies largely on existing farming infrastructure and often provides an opportunity to leverage and build upon the existing revenue streams of field crops. This could potentially provide an powerful income diversification opportunity for farmers.

There is a lot of room for collaboration and knowledge sharing, so the cellular agriculture sector should seek to work with, and complement, Australia’s existing agricultural industries.

Is the technology new?


Precision fermentation has been used for decades to produce insulin for diabetics and rennet for cheese-making. Both of these proteins were once obtained from animals (insulin from pig pancreas and rennet from calves’ stomachs), but for the last several decades they have been made by harnessing microorganisms to produce these proteins. This has allowed the final products to be much cheaper, safer and more humane.

The cultivation of stem cells to produce human tissues or organs is well researched for regenerative medicine. Although this technology is well practised for medical purposes, applying it for the production of food and agricultural products at scale is new and requires the development of novel processes and equipment.

How do cellular agriculture products compare to plant-based alternatives?

Cultivated meat and seafood is made directly from the cultivation of animal cells, whereas plant-based meat is made from plants.

For example, cultivated meat is often made from a combination of cultivated animal muscle cells and tissues. Although the technology still has a long way to go, cultivated meat could potentially be indistinguishable from conventional meat in terms of nutrition, aroma, flavour and mouthfeel. Intentional differences may also be created to produce new and unique products.

Our CEO Sam tasted a cultivated lamb meatball created by cellular agriculture company Magic Valley, "simply put, they were delicious ... yes it was meaty, yes it tasted like lamb," he said in this article.

On the other hand, plant-based meats are made with plant proteins processed in ways to closely resemble the flavour and mouthfeel of meat.

It should be noted that currently, most cultivated meat products are 'hybrid products', meaning they contain a combination of cultivated meat cells and plant-based proteins.

Foods produced using precision-fermented ingredients (such as precision-fermented dairy or egg products) are made with proteins that are functionally equivalent to those found in traditional products. Just like with cultivated meat, this gives the products a flavour and mouthfeel that is potentially much closer to traditional products than plant-based alternatives.

Are cellular agriculture products suitable for vegetarian/vegans?

Cellular agriculture food products like cultivated meat and precision-fermented dairy are made directly from animal cells. As such, they are considered animal-sourced foods and thus cannot be officially certified as vegetarian or vegan products.

The Vegan Society states: “we cannot officially support cultivated meat as animals are still used in its production [...] we would not be able to register such products with the Vegan Trademark."

However, some individuals who consider themselves vegetarian or vegan may choose to consumer these products due to the production processes (i.e. cell biopsy) not causing harm or suffering to the animal.

It should be noted that the specific use of animals in the production of cellular agriculture products may vary significantly between companies. For example, some companies may utilise fetal bovine serum (FBS) in their culture media, whilst some companies are committed to using serum-free media.

You can read one perspective on cultivated meat and veganism here.

Cultivated, cultured, cell-based and lab-grown meat - is there a difference?


These are all different names for the same thing - meat (or other food and agricultural products) created directly from cells using cell cultivation technology (which is often also referred to as cell-culture technology).

Where these terms differ is their accuracy and appropriateness.

Terms like 'lab-grown meat' are quite simply, inaccurate. The terminology utilised to describe these product should accurately represent that final product products will be created in food manufacturing facilities, not misleading consumers to believe that they will be 'grown in a lab'.

Importantly, 36 sector stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific regions have reached consensus on 'cultivated' as the most preferred terminology.

There remains a large degree of inconsistency in nomenclature relating to the cellular agriculture sector both regionally and globally, which is why we set about developing a common and consistent foundation of language for the sector in Australia as a part of our Key Terms project.

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