“Meat from the laboratory” a new consumers trend


“Meat from the laboratory” a new consumers trend

Do you belong in that part of the population which wishes to change the way they eat and the way that the whole world is being fed? Are you curious to learn innovative ways in which you can come one step closer at this direction? Both science and technology can be your alliance at this effort which brings in the new reality: the first laboratory cultivated meat in the market. 

It’s a fact that we can produce meat without the animal itself. You can find that kind of meat not only in a laboratory but also in the updated menus for many restaurants around the world. The pioneer was the American food company ‘’Eat Just’’, which already brings to the menu of the restaurant “1880” in Singapore, the first laboratory-grown chicken “bites”.

By the middle or end of 2022 it will be sold and in other food shops in Singapore as well as in retail stores, as the co-founder and CEO of ‘’Eat Just ‘’claims.

Nowadays, more and more consumers globally are looking for healthier and more ethical products with the lowest environmental footprint,  a fact that promotes the search for alternative solutions. Simultaneously, more and more companies acknowledge the benefits of satisfying the increasing market’s demand for a variety of different products.

In a recent report of the non-governmental organization ‘’The Good Food Institute’’, it is noticed that the 35 newly formed industries in 2018 that had invested either in laboratory meat products or in alternative sea food globally, have been increased to 55 by the end of 2019.

Since the middle of 2020, Singapore Food Agency has approved the laboratory cultivated meat, encouraging the leading companies to supply the first commercialized products of cultivated meat worldwide. The next time you will be visiting Singapore, exploit the chance of visiting one of these restaurants and taste their innovative and interesting catalogue!

κλασικό αμερικάνικο κοτόπουλο και βάφλα με εργαστηριακά καλλιεργημένο κοτόπουλο
Picture 1: The two dishes in which the cultivated chicken is served in the restaurant ‘’1880’’ a) classic chicken & waffle (american).
bao με σπιτική σάλτσα hoisin και εργαστηριακά καλλιεργούμενο κρέας
b) bao with homemade sauce hoisin (chinese).
εργαστηριακά καλλιεργούμενες κοτομπουκιές της εταιρίας Eat Just
Picture 2: Laboratory cultivated chicken bites of the company Eat Just (Eat Just, Inc./ Handout via REUTERS).

Why laboratory cultivated meat? A glance in the production procedure.

When it comes to animal farming, greenhouse gasses (14,5%), land exploitation (30%), water (8%) and raw materials required, raise the question of sustainability of livestock farms. 

Consumers’ concerns about public health issues related to animals, like allergies (antibiotics) or animal-derivative diseases (like Ebola, SARS, swine flu etc.) their wellness and treatment and related to the environment, have led to new research in the food industry.

This innovative practice comes to encourage the reduction of environmental impact of our lifestyle and of our dietary habits. The basic purpose is to satisfy the needs of an increasing part of the population by exploiting less non-renewable sources the next years.

This emerging technology is based in the meat production in a factory or laboratory from healthy animal muscle cells with tissue cultivation that leads to the final product known as cultivated meat or clean meat.

The production process begins by isolating the animal muscle cells, which then reproduce and multiply in special equipment (bioreactors or incubators) while they are fed with nutritious ingredients including vitamins, sugars, minerals, and proteins.

The composition of the above ingredients plays an important role, because in that stage the development and the differentiation of the cells in the suitable forms (connective tissue, muscle tissue, fat) will take place. Lastly, the differentiated products are gathered and packaged in final products. Just one cell is enough to produce an unlimited amount of meat!

Meanwhile, Europe’s biggest research foundations like Wageningen University & Research and other organizations already study the procedure of producing laboratory meat, aiming at enhancing some processes, like strengthening the aromatic profile of the product. However, it is worth to be mentioned that the controlled environment, that is created and the possibility of combining cells, offers the advantage of forming new tastes. Scientists also regard it as a friendly production process and less processed ingredients.

Το 1ο καλλιεργούμενο εργαστηριακά κρέας πριν το ψήσιμο.
Picture 3: The first laboratory cultivated meat before cooking (Maastricht University, 2013).

Which are the concerns about this innovation? Why its products are limited in the global market?

The cultivated meat will improve the food system by drastically reducing the carbon footprint and by increasing the safety of foods globally. However, there are some natural obstacles like consumer’s way of thinking for whatever is processed and some technical obstacles that continue to make it hard to trade cultivated meat on a mass market scale. Those obstacles are linked to the media utilized for cultivating muscles, fat and cells of the connected tissue. As a result, to produce it on an industrial scale it’s necessary to apply the basic principles of mechanic and biology.

However, as it is emphasized in the research of the non-govermental organization GFI (The Good Food Institute), the new technological evolutions, like the development of enhanced and specialized bio-reactors in the production of clean meat, the enhanced production ways of development agents (lower point of cleaning or cheaper substitutes) and the recycle of ingredients of the cultivation media can significantly reduce the cost of the process, to become a more sustainable option compared to the conventional meat.

In addition, when it comes to energy resources, the carbon footprint delivered from the production of cultivated meat is reduced by 80%. The recently published reports, the evaluation of the life-cycle assessment (LCA) and a techno-economic assessment are the first ones related to the data collected from 15 companies that participate in the supply chain in that meat, based on the GFI.

In other words, the market cost of the chicken nuggets of Eat Just is around 23 dollars. By producing them on an industrial scale their cost will be lower than the conventional meat, thanks to reduction of costly resources, less waste and total reduction of the environmental footprint.

Global impact

It’s a fact that cell-based meat can become the basic tool for populations that are rapidly increasing in size and wealth. Furthermore, the variety of products produced by this technology is increasing, empowering its market presence with appearances like bacon Higher Steaks , the lobster of Shiok Meat and the fish fillet Avant Meats on a trial scale.

In a research related to find out about the acceptance of cultivated meat and to overcome the allegations about its naturallity, 66,4% of the consumers were eager to taste the cultivated meat, 45,9% were eager to buy it regularly, 52,8% were eager to replace the conventional meat with the cultivated. 

In another study, the basic percentages of acceptance were examined and it was found a similar percentage of eagerness to clean meat (65,3%), but significantly lower percentages of unwillingness for regular consumption (32,6%) and willingness to replace the conventional meat (31,5%). Indicatively from the above polls one can see a remarkable percentage of consumers that responds positively in the trial of this innovation, a fact that is an encouraging factor for the market and the industry.

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Moreover, in another study published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems in 2019, high levels of acceptance of cultivated meat were found in the three most populous countries and with even higher level of acceptances in China and India compared to USA. Specifically, the 59.3% of Chinese consumers and 56.3% of Indian consumers and just the 30% of US consumers stated that it’s very likely to buy cell-based meat.

In conclusion, the production of meat in laboratory remains a challenge for the food industry and the contribution of governments and organizations is extremely important in that project. This technology doesn’t require the death or suffering of the animal and it aims at the reproduction of the procedure as much as it is desirable.

This alternative should be studied thoroughly as much as a tendency but also as tool for the planet’s sustainability. Ultimately, a variety of innovations of cultivated meat has been predicted for the following years and as consumers we have the right and the obligation to be fully informed regarding the products that we choose to consume.

Μaria Chamilaki
Food Scientist MSc

    • (*) Gerber, P.J., et al. (2013). Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome.
    • Jo A. & Bryant C. (2018). Messages to Overcome Naturalness Concerns in Clean Meat Acceptance: Primary Findings. Faunalytics
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    • Specht L. (2019). An Analysis of Culture Medium Costs and Production Volumes for Cell-Based Meat. Washington, DC: The Good Food Institute; 2019
    • Suthers, P. F., & Maranas, C. D. (2020). Challenges of cultivated meat production and applications of genome-scale metabolic modeling. AIChE Journal
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