Could cell-based meat replace traditionally animal-derived meat?
Talks of cell-based meat are on an upward trajectory as the industry experiences significant growth. In December 2020, Singapore became the first country to approve the sale of cell-based meat with the commercialisation of Good Meat’s cell-based chicken, a brand from plant-based company Eat Just.
In this blog post, we take a look at cell-based meat and what it could mean for the industry.
The idea of producing meat proteins via cell-cultured practices can be traced back to 1932 when Winston Churchill predicted in his book Thoughts and Adventures that it would one day be possible to produce chicken meat without rearing live chickens.
Fast forward to 2013, the first cell-cultured beef burger was introduced by Professor Mark Post of Vascular Physiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. It cost over €200,000 at the time, according to GovGrant, though in 2019, the professor claimed costs had lowered to around €9 per burger. While this is considerably more expensive than most beef burgers you could find in retailers, it provides a window into the significant progress that has occurred in a short space of time and its potential for the future.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has stated that two of the biggest global challenges – feeding the human population and combatting climate change – could be tackled with the use of biotechnology. WEF says that current global food systems "cannot provide a sustainable, healthy diet for the world’s growing population".
In an article, WEF said: “We are already seeing the devastating impacts of climate change, and it will prove fatal to ignore the available solutions like those offered by biotechnology”.
“The decisions we make now, whether through policy-making, business, or in society at large, will drastically impact our future and the world in which we live. It will not be easy, but we must try much harder. If we replace meat-based proteins with alternative proteins, we can drastically reduce global warming, water use, and land use by over 80% in Europe alone.”
According to Good Food Institute (GFI), the manufacturing process begins with acquiring and banking stem cells from an animal. The cells are then grown (cultivated) in bioreactors at high densities and volumes by being fed an oxygen-rich cell culture medium made of basic nutrients. The entire process takes around two to eight weeks, depending on what kind of meat is being cultivated, GFI says, adding that some companies are using similar strategies to create milk and dairy products.
A recent report by GFI revealed that sustainable companies across Europe raised €579 million last year, nearly 24% more than in 2021, while cell-based meat companies in Europe saw investments jump by 30% to €120 million. This figure is more than half of the total raised by European cultivated meat companies between 2016 and 2021.
The Dubai Future Foundation Forum has also highlighted the potential that cell-based meat holds for overcoming environmental sustainability and food security crises. At the Dubai Future Forum in October, technology and healthcare futurist Jamie Metzle expressed his concerns for a future that exists the same way it does today due to agricultural influence.
Metzle said: “We’re going to have 10 billion people on the planet by 2050 and if we continue as we are now, we’re going to need 70% more arable land. We do not have that amount and a lot of arable land is becoming less arable because of climate change.”
Cell-based meat is certainly lapping up the limelight as its benefits are increasingly being noted and reiterated as time goes on and as technology develops. A report by Allied Market Research claimed that the global cell-based meat market size is expected to reach $2.78 billion by 2030...The consumption of cell-based meat on a commercial level could be closer than we think.