Future of ‘Clean Meat’: What is in store for Cultured meat?

Lab-grown meat or cultured meat is produced through the cultivation of animal cells in vitro, without the need to slaughter any animal. It offers a solution to the consumers seeking the flavour of meat whilst completely eliminating any risk of viral infections. The cell lines are worked on under a clinical environment and there is no cross-contamination. Cells are screened for irregularities and the environment is completely aseptic and sterile and therefore, there is no way any virus could form in this production process.

Cultured meat would possibly bring an end to animal farming, or even its substantial reduction which would bring huge benefits to the planet and of course the lives of 56 billion animals slaughtered annually for meat consumption

Cultured meat also has the potential of personalizing the nutritional profile to cater to various nutritional deficiencies of individuals by adding more vitamins, amino acids, saturated and unsaturated fats, etc. resulting in a boost in the immune system.

Drivers: Inhibitors:
Personalized nutritional profile Speed and density of cell growth
More eco-friendly Growth medium requirements
Environmental sustainability Cost to produce
Lower risk of viral infections Replicating the taste of traditional meat
Animal welfare Regulatory approval

Although this industry poses great potential in terms of growth, it still faces obstacles in order to achieve commercialization of cultured meat in the market:
1) Speed and density of cell growth: Although individual cells can grow quickly, it can take some time for a larger tissue segment to form. In addition, if the cells aren’t forming together at the same density as traditionally sourced meat, the texture of the product will not come out the same way.
2) Growth medium requirements: Cells require proper growth medium rich in nutrients in order to survive and grow. Since lab-grown meat is ultimately meant for human consumption, a high-quality growth medium free of common allergens are necessary.
3) Cost to produce: Lab-grown meats are still only being produced on a fairly small scale, and though the cost to make them has drastically decreased from the $330,000+ it used to cost, lab meat is very expensive to produce at around $2400/pound of lab beef, according to Memphis Meats.
4) Replicating the taste of traditional meat: Taste needs to be the same or very close to that of traditional meat. More work is needed to ensure that the taste of cultured meat will please the foodies of the world.

Regulations that would be designed to protect incumbent livestock industries by stifling this type of agricultural innovation could potentially kill this industry before it’s even born. There’s also the risk that the clean meat industry will start flourishing in certain countries while in others there will be just too many legal restrictions for companies to operate effectively.

Singapore is the first nation to issue regulatory approval for lab-grown meat to the company ‘Eat Just’ following a rigorous consultation and review process by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).

The FDA and the USDA are also doing exemplary work so far to position the United States at the forefront of this cellular agriculture revolution. Between the meat industry’s investment in SuperMeat and the steak produced by Aleph Farms, Israel has also heavily invested to begin the production of cultured meat.

Significant developments in terms of commercial products have been taking place in 2020. Israeli start-up, SuperMeat has opened the first restaurant which serves two varieties of SuperMeat’s lab-grown chicken burger to its consumers. Another Israeli start-up, Aleph Farms, has partnered with Mitsubishi Corporation’s food industry group to scale up the cell-based meat dish produced by its pilot plant BioFarm that will soon be served at the Japanese table.

Companies such as BlueNalu and Mosa Meat has decided to expand their operations with a pilot-scale food production plant that will be designed for the commercial production of its various cell-based products which they intend to launch in the second half of 2021. New Age Meats, a California-based cultivated meat start-up specializing in the cellular agriculture of pork, has raised a US$2 million seed extension in July to propel food science and accelerate the commercialization of the company’s first product, a pork sausage. Shiok Meats announced a US$12.6 million Series A funding round which will go toward building a “first-of-its-kind” commercial pilot plant from which the Singapore-based business plans to launch its minced shrimp product in 2022.

KFC-Russia is using 3D bioprinting technology to produce real chicken meat grown directly from the cell in cooperation with the 3D Bioprinting Solutions research laboratory. KFC embracing cultured meat is positive for consumer acceptance and is hailed as the biggest moment for alternative protein. New research conducted by the University of Bath (UK), Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté (France), and Ipsos (Germany)  indicates substantial potential markets for cultured meat and the movement towards reduced-meat diets across Germany and France.

Therefore, it can be observed that the cultured meat market has a high potential for growth with many manufacturers on the brink of commercialization of lab-grown meat. There has also been increased consumer acceptance across the globe due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for reasons such as personal health and animal welfare.

Author:
Abhilash Ravi,
Consultant, Food & Nutrition

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