Visualized below is how cultured meat will virtually eliminate the need for animals to be farmed for food and the science behind it.
Cultured foods, often known as cell-based foods, are projected to completely transform our global food system.
According to McKinsey, the cultured meat business is expected to reach a staggering $25 billion by 2030, but only if it can overcome obstacles like price parity and customer acceptance.
For the industry to grow, major innovation in the science behind these items will be required.
Below is a visual summary of some of the technologies (pdf below) driving the creation of cultured meat products in the image below from CULT Food Science.
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What is Cultured Meat?
To begin, cultured meat is described as a genuine animal meat product produced by cultivating animal cells in a controlled lab environment, virtually eliminating the need for animals to be farmed for food.
“Cultured meat has all the same fat, muscles, and tendons as any animal…All this can be done with little or no greenhouse gas emissions, aside from the electricity you need to power the land where the process is done.”
– BILL GATES
The sensory and nutritional qualities of cultured meat are similar to those of animal tissue since it is formed of the same cell types and structure. Let’s look at how these items are made.
The Science and Technology Behind Cultured Meat
The most significant problem facing the cultured meat industry is mass production. However, the technology underpinning cultured foods is not entirely new, thanks to extensive study in the stem cell biology field.
Given that we are still in the early stages of applying these principles to the production of food, individuals willing to invest in companies that help the industry grow would benefit. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the key technologies that underpin the industry:
1. Bioprocess Design
This is the process of using living cells and their components to create new products. According to experts like the Good Food Institute, bioprocess design holds the key to unlocking cultured meat production at scale.
Specifically, innovation in bioreactor (where the cells grow) design represents a massive opportunity for companies and investors alike.
2. Tissue Engineering
Tissue engineering techniques are used to produce cultured meat that resembles real meat textures and flavors. The first step is taking tissue from the animal for the purpose of extracting stem cells and creating cell lines.
The extracted stem cell lines are then cultivated in a nutrient rich environment, mimicking in-animal tissue growth and producing muscle fibers inside a bioreactor. The muscle fibers are processed and mixed with additional fats and ingredients to assemble the finished meat product.
3. Cell Lines
Cell lines refer to the different types of cells that can be propagated repeatedly and sometimes indefinitely.
Access to cell lines is a major challenge facing the industry today and is an area that requires significantly more research. This is because there is not just one cell type that can be used in cellular agriculture to produce cultured food products.
4. Cell Culture Media
Cells (or cell cultures) require very specific environmental conditions. Cell culture media is a gel or liquid that contains the nutrients needed to support growth outside of the body.
More research in this space is needed to determine optimized formulations and make these products more affordable.
Scaffolds are 3D cell culture platforms that mimic the structure of complex biological tissues, such as skeletal muscle. This platforms can be created through the use of 3D Bioprinting.
Scaffolds are predominantly made up of collagen and gelatin. The problem is these are both animal-derived ingredients which defeats the purpose of cell-based products. Therefore, more sustainable plant-derived options are also being explored.
Read the report on the state of the industry below: