Everything you need to know about Cultivated Meat
The cultivated meat industry is reaching an exciting phase. Companies worldwide are developing new and interesting food products that are so familiar, but so different! With so many meat alternatives out there, it is easy to get confused.
Three Misconceptions About Cultivated Meat
Cultivated meat is not lab-grown meat.
Cultivated meat is not like the Impossible Burger.
Cultivated meat is not made from plant-based ingredients (well, not entirely).
Let’s unpack the details.
What is Cultivated Meat?
Cultivated meat is real meat produced differently, with sustainability in mind.
Rather than feeding, growing, and slaughtering an entire animal for its meat, cultivated meat involves growing just the parts we want to eat. We cultivate meat from the muscle and fat cells in a fermentation process similar to brewing beer.
Livestock farming is an inefficient producer of calories and protein
Cultivated meat requires less land than livestock farming
Why develop cultivated meat?
Cultivated meat products present a unique solution to meet consumer demands for high-quality protein while addressing sustainability, environmental, and supply chain concerns. Global meat consumption is expected to rise as the world’s population grows.
According to a 2022 OECD forecast, increasing global wealth and other socioeconomic factors in developing countries will also drive higher meat consumption in the next decade.
How is cultivated meat produced?
Cultivated meat production begins with a sample of cells from the animal. These cells are added to a nutrient broth that gives them the essential ingredients to grow and multiply.
Typically, the cells are grown in fermentation tanks called bioreactors in a process similar to brewing yeast; alongside other fermentation methods.
Where does cultivated meat sit in the alt protein space?
New language to describe our field is emerging every day, like alt protein. But what does it all mean?
- Alt proteins are proteins produced from plant, animal, or microbial cells as opposed to whole proteins derived from eating plants or traditionally farmed meat.
- Cellular agriculture refers to the process of growing or cultivating plant, animal, and microbial cells for food applications.
- Cultivated meat is real meat grown from animal cells in a brewing-like process. It is also known as clean meat and cultured meat.
- Precision fermentation uses microbes – yeast, fungi, algae, and bacteria – to produce food ingredients such as enzymes, flavouring agents, vitamins, fats, and colourings.
- Plant-based meat refers to meat-alternative products based on processed plant-based protein or fungi.
For an extensive list of cultivated meat companies and more in the alt protein space, check out KindEarth.Tech’s food maps in this space.
Is cultivated meat more sustainable than traditionally farmed meat?
According to the Good Food Institute, cultivated meat is much more sustainable than traditional farming.
Meat production is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the impact of climate change is a major risk factor for global food security.
Cultivated meat addresses these challenges directly by conserving both land and water resources. Cultivated meat production is 60-300% more efficient than current poultry farming and 2,000-4,000% more efficient than beef farming. Quality control is also much simpler in fermentation than in a field.
Is cultivated meat healthier than traditionally farmed meat?
Cultivated meat likely reduces some health risks associated with livestock farming. Additionally, this technology may play a significant role in developing countries where increased antibiotic use in farming impacts food safety.
Cultivated meat production does not use antibiotics or livestock generally, so there is a much-reduced risk of disease. Some proponents of cultivated meat have also suggested that products could be formulated or engineered to confer health benefits or reduce human health risks, such as adjusting the fat content or removing proteins known to cause inflammation.
What are the practical challenges facing cultivated meat products?
There are several challenges facing these products:
- Costly and poor-quality starting materials hinder product development
- Vertical stacking of capabilities in-house delays cell culture scale-up to commercial volumes
- Nutritional value add at commercial scale manufacturing remains complex and unique for each product
- There is no clear regulatory path to market in many regions
Will cultivated meat replace traditionally farmed meat?
We aim to supplement the demand for high-quality meat products by helping cultivated meat companies scale the production of their products more sustainably and economically.
Are cultivated meat products vegan?
No. Unlike the many plant-based meat alternatives available, cultivated meat products are not vegan.
This is because the cells used to produce cultivated meat are obtained from animals and, in some cases, animal-derived ingredients are also used in the growth medium. Cultivated meat raises the prospect of slaughter-free meat as the field progresses.
Can I eat cultivated meat now?
Yes, if you can get to select restaurants in Singapore!
Here in the UK, cultivated meat has not yet been approved by the Food Standards Agency and the precise regulatory pathway for approval is unclear.
In the EU, cultivated meat products will be regulated under the Novel Food Regulation unless genetically modified organisms are used.
In the USA, the FDA approved its first cultivated meat product in a pre-market consultation submitted by UPSIDE Foods. This doesn’t mean products will be on shelves anytime soon, but it does confirm this food product is safe to eat.
Fun fact: Cultivated meat was served at the COP27 meeting on climate change in Egypt in 2022.