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 such as precision fermentation, cell-cultivation and gas fermentation to produce accessible, ethical and sustainable food and agricultural products.

What products are made using cellular agriculture?

Cellular agriculture is most commonly used to make animal-derived foods and ingredients such as meat, seafood, dairy products, fats, egg whites and gelatin. However, it can also be used to produce non-animal-derived products such as breast milk, coffee, chocolate and palm oil, as well as non-food items such as leather or silk.

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 derived). 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 and gas fermentation.

What is precision fermentation?

Precision fermentation involves programming microbial cells (yeast, fungi, algae or bacteria) to produce ingredients such as egg and dairy proteins, fats, gelatin, and various other compounds. It has also been used for many years to make insulin and the cheese-making enzymes in rennet.

What is cell cultivation?

Cell cultivation is primarily used to make cultivated meat and seafood and involves the production of muscle, fat and connecting tissue (for meat and seafood), skin (for leather or food) and liver (for foie gras) from stem cells isolated from an animal.

Cell cultivation can also be used to produce other non-animal-derived products such as coffee and chocolate. 

Cultivated meat can replicate the sensory and nutritional profile of conventional meat and seafood 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.

How is cultivated meat made?

To make cultivated meat, stem cells are taken harmlessly from a living animal and are then placed into an environment that provides the cells with the nutrients and conditions needed to grow. Here, they are first encouraged to multiply, and then they begin differentiating and maturing into specific meat tissues, such as muscle and fat. Once mature, the tissues are harvested and developed into final meat products, which can be prepared just like conventional meat.

Will cellular agriculture products be more sustainable?

It is projected that cellular agriculture will be a much more sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture, and in particular intensive industrialised practices. There are predictions it will vastly reduce land use (99%), water use (82-96%), GHG emissions (78-96%) and potentially even energy use (7-45%)(Source).

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 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.

Furthermore, the report mentions that cultivated meat will outperform current chicken and pork production 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 bovine dairy milk in water use, non-renewable energy input and greenhouse gas production.

Land use is also a key factor. By vastly reducing the land used for animal agriculture, land can then be repurposed to: regenerate habitats and biodiversity; reduce global warming through carbon sequestration and the cooling effects of revegetation; restore soils to mitigate water and nutrient loss, and reintroduce many other environmental and societal benefits.

What is gas fermentation?

Gas fermentation is used by several companies (such as Solar Foods), and involves splitting water from air, for targeted microorganisms to live in. Next, 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 microorganisms grow and multiply in a process that is 20 times more efficient than photosynthesis.

As the microorganisms multiply in the water, the liquid grows thicker and some of the slurry is continuously removed and dried up to form a powder. This dry powder is made up of whole cells that are up to 70% protein. This protein can then be used in a range of food products.

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 cell-cultured burger, was produced in the Netherlands and in 2020, Singapore approved the commercial sale of cultivated meat. Israel and the United States are currently establishing regulatory frameworks.

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. 

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

Why do we need cellular agriculture?

The main benefit of cellular agriculture is its potential to provide us with a supply stream of food and other products that does not rely on production practices that are increasingly recognised as harmful.

This largely includes farming or fishing for animal-derived products, but also pertains to unsustainable cropping for goods such as palm oil, coffee or chocolate. These practices are considered a major contributor to climate change, excessive deforestation, biodiversity loss and pollution.

As our population grows, expanding these operations to meet increasing demand will simply not be sustainable. By avoiding the need for animals or harmful cropping practices, cellular agriculture may be a way to meet a significant portion of this growing demand more sustainably.

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.

Making products via precision fermentation does involve the genetic modification of microbial cells. These ‘cellular factories’ have their DNA modified to produce specific 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).

How do cellular agriculture products compare on nutrition?

Products made through cellular agriculture can potentially have a similar nutritional profile to conventional products. Cellular agriculture may even 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.

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 or fishing
  • 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.

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

How will the cellular agriculture industry affect traditional farming and farmers’ jobs?

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 acrossin our country. It is an opportunity to diversify and strengthen Australia’s agricultural system, complementing our traditional agriculture industries.

A number of companies and think tanks have speculated on how current producers may work with, or even become cellular agriculture producers if desired. Here is one farmer’s perspective on this.

Considerations on how to best go about such a transition can be found in our Pathways Tool.

Is the technology safe?


Precision fermented dairy products are already on the market in the U.S. after being approved for consumption and sale by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2020.

The Singapore Food Agency, the Dutch government and the FDA have all approved cultivated meat as safe for human consumption. 

According to FSANZ, the authority responsible for food standards in Australia and New Zealand, Australia’s existing food safety standards can already incorporate products created through cellular agriculture technologies.

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 fermenting microbes engineered with the appropriate genes. This has allowed the final products to be much cheaper, safer and more humane.

In terms of cultivated meat, the culturing 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 at the huge scales needed for food production 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 from animal cells just like conventional meat and seafood, whereas plant-based meat is made from plants.

Because cultivated meat is composed of animal cells and tissues, it is identical to conventional meat on a biochemical and molecular level. 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. 

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

Foods produced through precision fermentation such as dairy or egg products are made with actual animal proteins rather than plant proteins. Just like with cultivated meat, this gives them flavour and mouthfeel that are potentially much closer to the conventional products than plant-based dairy or egg alternatives.

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. See our Pathways tool to learn more.

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