Cultivated

Development and industry-wide adoption of standards for meat characterization

A more comprehensive understanding of the processes, structures, and molecular constituents governing meat’s organoleptic properties will inform the production of alternative proteins.

Production platform
  • Cultivated
Solution category
  • Research
Value chain segment
  • End Products
  • R&D
Technology sector
  • End product formulation & manufacturing
Relevant actor
  • Academics
  • GFI
  • NGO’s
  • Startups
Maturity level
  • 1 – Inception

The plant-based meat and cultivated meat industries would benefit from comprehensive resources for understanding and systematically measuring meat properties to guide product development. A more comprehensive understanding of the processes, structures, and molecular constituents that govern the organoleptic properties of meat will inform efforts to recapitulate these sensory attributes in plant-based and cultivated meat. Developing widely-adopted standards for measuring these key properties will improve reproducibility and contribute to a more efficient marketplace for validating new ingredients, technologies, and process improvements.

Current challenge

Optimization of processes for producing plant-based and cultivated meat will require a thorough understanding of the cellular and molecular characteristics of the final product one is trying to create. Existing meat science literature serves as a valuable resource, but open-access research aimed at translating these lessons to alternative proteins is lacking, as is a level of methodological standardization that would facilitate data aggregated across studies.

Some of the important factors in conventional meat science, such as pre-slaughter stress or the risk of spoilage from bacteria introduced at slaughter, will not apply to plant-based or cultivated meat, whereas these platforms will present their own unique process and ingredient considerations. As the alternative protein field progresses, it will benefit from increased standardization across academic labs and industry partners.

Proposed solution

The plant-based and cultivated meat field would benefit from systematic resources compiling species-specific data on muscle texture, microstructure, and molecular composition, with an eye specifically to recapitulating the most important organoleptic properties in plant-based and cultivated meat.

Much of the necessary knowledge—at least for common terrestrial species whose industries have a history of funding meat science research, such as beef and poultry—already exists from studies on conventional meat. However, there is a need for rigorous efforts to standardize and systematize these data in an accessible way and for additional data collection to fill in knowledge gaps on specific species and to address issues specific to recapitulation using plant-based ingredients or cultivated animal cells.

Standardization of characterization methods will facilitate reproducibility and enable easier comparisons between results collected by different labs. Research into which measurement methods are most predictive of organoleptic qualities may be needed. Additionally, measurement tools and methods that are better-suited to small samples are needed to allow for rapid lab-scale prototyping and improvement of product attributes.

Anticipated impact

Open-access knowledge and widely adopted standards for quality, composition, structural, and other attributes that can be applied equally across conventional meat, cultivated meat, and plant-based meat will enable research to proceed more efficiently, with reduced duplication of efforts and wasted resources.

Without an active push for open-access research in this area, progress may be slow and inefficient due to siloing of knowledge or competitive information withholding. Thus, research into meat characterization and standards development will be best served by an open-access model.

Once this foundational data and set of methodological standards are developed, subsequent meat science research can be more efficiently pursued by plant-based and cultivated meat companies. A standardized platform can also pave the way for B2B business models in which meat characterization is offered as a service.

  • Scaffolding publications featuring measurements of meat texture: Macqueen et al. 2019 | Ben-Arye et al. 2020; Meat science resources: Lawrie and Ledward, 2006. Lawrie’s Meat Science, 7th Edition. | Gates, 2011. “Handbook of Seafood and Seafood Products Analysis.” Journal of Aquatic Food Product Technology 20 (2): 258–69.

GFI resources

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