Wild Type makes the case for cell-based meat in economic terms alone

What if you don’t care about the environment, public health, or animal welfare? Even then, cell-based meat makes a lot of sense.
World map of alternative protein manufacturers

The team at cell-based meat company Wild Type just made an extremely compelling business case for cell-based meat that has nothing to do with the environmental, societal, animal welfare, or public health benefits.

Just as it’s crucial to lead with flavor when bringing better food choices to consumers, it’s important to be able to lead with profit with investors and food manufacturers.

In the first post of Wild Type’s “Food for Thought” series, they illustrate the gargantuan—and still growing—size of the market demand for meat and then cogently demonstrate why we need a different form of meat production, in economic terms alone. (The whole series is a phenomenal read. Find links at the bottom of this post.)

Wild Type underscores that meat, poultry, and fish consumption is increasing not only with global population growth but also per capita. Put another way, everyone is eating more meat at an individual level, and there are more and more people on the planet, period. It’s a double whammy that makes for a nearly $3 trillion market by Wild Type’s calculation.

Graph of global per capita meat and fish consumption

Courtesy of Wild Type
So demand is rising, but we’re already at the far edge of optimization in our current methods for manufacturing meat. (And it still takes 9 calories of feed to produce 1 calorie of chicken meat; other animal proteins are even more inefficient). Wild Type’s analysis demonstrates that the cost savings made with the advent of concentrated animal feeding operations are disappearing.
The graph below, which is adjusted for inflation, shows how the price of beef in the U.S. dropped from the 1970s to about 1999, as animal agriculture practices transformed into the behemoth-scale facilities that supply the vast majority of the U.S.’s meat today.
Then, as rising costs for inputs like feed, water, and labor caught up with the efficiency gains, the price of beef—in terms of real cost—has risen and now surpassed where it was at the beginning of this ag transformation.

Graph of inflation-adjusted retail price per pound of beef

Courtesy of Wild Type
The data for other animal proteins display similar curves. From a cost perspective, we’re trending back from whence we came. (Check out Wild Type’s deep dive on this here.
It’s time to think outside the feedlot. The good news is that entrepreneurs are doing just this.
The landscape of cell-based meat startups has expanded dramatically in just three years. There are now more than two dozen startups currently working on product development in this space. By growing just meat rather than entire animals, cell-based meat companies can dramatically decrease inputs like land, nutrients, and water. Additionally, cell-based meat production involves no feces (thus no risk of fecal contamination) and doesn’t require antibiotics.
In the rest of the series, Wild Type unpacks the interplay between supply and demand, talent needs today and in the future, food trends that will affect the developing industry, and unexplored opportunities in the supply chain.
Wild Type’s diagram of the cell-based meat value chain illuminates where companies are currently focusing their time and energy and where resources will be necessary in coming years: “Producing great food at scale requires much more than growing cells.”

Graph of cell-line development level of focus

Courtesy of Wild Type

The takeaway? There are major opportunities in the cell-based meat industry for entrepreneurs and companies prescient enough to seize them. Check out Wild Type’s entire “Food for Thought” series to get the full picture:

  1. The Business Case
  2. Supply and Demand
  3. Talent
  4. White Space
  5. Harnessing Food Trends

Happy reading!


Mary allen

Mary Allen GFI ALUM

Mary Allen is a science writer, creative strategist, and GFI alum focused on the intersection of sustainability and emerging technology. Find more of her work at mary-allen.com.