What is cultivated meat?

Cultivated meat is meat produced directly from cells. The process of cultivating meat uses the basic elements needed to build muscle and fat and enables the same biological process that happens inside an animal. Cultivated meat is identical to conventional meat at the cellular level.

Where does cultivated meat fit in the alt protein landscape?

Compared to the other pillars of alternative protein production – plant-based and fermentation – cultivated meat is a more recent innovation. 

However, the idea of cultivating meat without the animal has a long history. In 1931, Winston Churchill predicted, “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”

Professor Mark Post and his team at Maastricht University debuted the first cultivated burger in August 2013. In 2016, the first cultivated meat company, UPSIDE Foods, launched publicly. Mosa Meat and Super Meat soon followed. JUST Foods sold the first cultivated meat product in 2020, debuting chicken nuggets at a restaurant in Singapore. 

Why is cultivated meat important?

Using animals to convert plants to meat is incredibly inefficient. According to the World Resources Institute, it takes nine calories of food fed to a chicken to get one calorie back out in the form of animal flesh, and chickens are the most efficient at converting crops to meat. Livestock provides just 18 percent of calories consumed by humans but takes up 77 percent of global farmland.

Growing meat directly is vastly more efficient.  For example, studies indicate that cultivated meat would use land 60 to 300 percent more efficiently than poultry and 2000 to 4000 percent more efficiently than beef. This greater efficiency would benefit everything from biodiversity to climate. Cultivating meat also avoids the risk of fecal contamination and does not require many animals to live in close confinement. This, in turn, will drastically reduce the need for antibiotics in meat production as well as the risk of zoonotic pandemics.

What needs to be done to advance cultivated meat?

Although there are dozens of cultivated meat companies around the world, none have yet reached commercial-level production in terms of scale or cost. From cell line development to bioprocessor design, there are a number challenges to meet before cultivated meat is widely available and cost-competitive.

This is why the Good Food Institute created our Competitive Research Grants Program – to drive cutting-edge open-access research around the world. It is also why we are calling for governments to shift some of their billions of agricultural research funds to cultivated meat and other alternative proteins.

There are also a variety of regulatory steps required for cultivated meat to be available to most people. Singapore was the first country to formalize their regulatory requirements and approve a cultivated meat product for sale. Many other countries are working on developing their own standards.

Around the world, GFI is working with government agencies to craft clear regulatory oversight of cultivated meat that puts food safety first. For example, GFI consulted with Singapore’s government leading up to their approval and the first commercial cultivated meat sale. GFI in the U.S. and around the world is working to ensure cultivated meat companies can compete on a level playing field with full public trust.

A battered and fried cultured meat, a cultured chicken cutlet, plated with sauteed greens and mashed root vegetables | image courtesy of upside foods

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The science of cultivated meat

Learn about the science of cultivated meat and the challenges that must be addressed for commercial production.

Discover cultivated meat research projects

Due to the gap in foundational research for alternative protein science, we work with a select group of generous donors to run a grant program for open-access research.

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Myosatellite lines from Atlantic salmon

Through the GFI grant program, the Kaplan lab is developing myosatellite lines for cultivated Atlantic salmon at Tufts University

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Optimizing media for chicken cells

Learn about Dr. David Block’s work to perfect growth media for cultivated chicken at University of California, Davis.

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Co-culturing cells

GFI grantee Dr. Mariana Petronela Hanga is researching culturing different cell types at the same time.

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Computational modeling

GFI grantee Dr. Simon Kahan at the Cultivated Meat Modeling Consortium is using computational modeling to improve bioreactor design for meat cultivation.

The cultivated meat industry

Since UPSIDE Foods was announced as the world’s first cultivated meat company on February 1, 2016, the industry has grown tremendously. There are now dozens of cultivated meat companies around the world, with hundreds of millions of dollars raised in early funding rounds. There are now business-to-business companies specializing in serving cultivated meat producers.

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Resource

State of the Industry Report: Cultivated Meat

This global analysis of the cultivated meat industry covers investments, consumer insights, and scientific progress in this growing market sector.

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Company Database

Explore the landscape of plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation companies including consumer brands, manufacturers, and ingredients companies.

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GFIdeas Community

Learn from and network with experts in alternative protein. GFIdeas is a community for entrepreneurs, scientists, students, and subject matter experts.

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Cultivated meat nomenclature project

We developed a set of science-forward, evidence-based communication tools, rooted in familiar language, to help explain meat cultivation to non-technical audiences.

Getting governmental approval

Before cultivated meat comes to market in a country, a regulatory pathway must be in place. In many places, cultivated meat will be approved product by product. In Europe, cultivated meat will be regulated under an existing regulatory framework, although no company has yet submitted a product for approval. The government of Singapore formalized their regulatory process in 2020. The U.S., Israel, and Japan are also interested in cultivated meat and likely to present regulatory breakthroughs soon. India and Brazil are monitoring global progress with an eye to creating a path to market as well.

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Cultivated meat regulation

Cultivated meat must have an efficient regulatory path to market to be successful. Learn how GFI advocates clear and efficient regulations.

Making the case

GFI contributes to the regulatory process through expert comments and litigation. Through letters to the FDA and state legislators and governors as well as through participation in lawsuits, GFI helps level the playing field for cultivated meat.

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The cultivated meat field moves fast. GFI keeps readers up-to-date through regular posts from our experts around the world.

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The climate and biodiversity crises are inextricably interconnected – their solutions can be too.

Alternative proteins are critical to a biologically diverse, net-zero emissions world. Additional funding can help us deploy this powerful decarbonization tool.

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Alt proteins can transform our food system–tracking research grants can keep us on target

Research can propel alternative protein innovation and accelerate the shift to a more sustainable food system. Mapping the funding landscape can reveal critical opportunities to bolster innovation.

The world's first cultivated meat proof of concept was developed and unveiled by professor mark post in 2013.

Cultivated meat was once a vision. Now it’s becoming a reality

As cultivated meat gains momentum, we’re shining a light on some of the pioneers and milestones that have helped the industry transform from a sci-fi hypothesis to a blooming innovative…

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Record $3.1 billion invested in alt proteins in 2020 signals growing market momentum for sustainable proteins

In 2020, the alternative protein industry raised $3.1 billion in investments—more than in any single year in the industry’s history.

Header photo courtesy of JUST

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