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.
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 us tell you what it’s all about.
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.
Why make 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, though there are several methods of fermentation in use.
Where does cultivated meat sit in the alt protein space?
There are many new terms used to describe products and processes in this relatively new field. Here is a breakdown of the key terms:
Alt proteins are proteins produced from the 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 itself is also a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of climate change is a major risk factor for global food security.
Cultivated meat conserves both land and water resources, resulting in meat production that is 60-300% more efficient than current poultry farming and between 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.
Meat production is projected to grow fastest in developing countries where the risk of animal disease and antibiotic use in farming can impact food quality and security, and contribute to the emergence of zoonotic diseases and antibiotic resistance.
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:
1. Product development is hindered by costly materials and inefficient bioprocesses
2. Scaling cell culture from small-scale to commercial-scale volumes
3. Downstream processing and nutritional value add to the end cultivated meat product, such as vitamins and micronutrients
4. There is no clear regulatory path to market in many countries
Will cultivated meat replace traditionally farmed meat?
Cultivated meat is unlikely to replace farmed meat in our lifetime.
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 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 recently approved a 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.