THE NETHERLANDS, Delft. Cell-based meat became a reality to consumers last year, when Singapore gave regulatory approval to cultured chicken bites made by US company Eat Just. Several other companies say they are on the cusp of having cell-based meat products available for consumers — and could potentially have some available this year — as they work toward scaling up and gaining regulatory approval.
Cell-based meat could cause up to 92% less global warming, 93% less air pollution and use up to 95% less land and 78% less water compared to conventional beef production, according to a pair of new studies by CE Delft. The studies were commissioned by the Good Food Institute and European animal rights group GAIA.
The two studies also found by 2030, cost of cell-based meat production could drop to $2.57 per pound based on scaling and renewable energy. The studies, which conduct a life-cycle assessment and a techno-economic estimate of the nascent meat production process, use actual data from several companies in the space.
The prospective Life Cycle Assessment study of cultivated meat is the first LCA study which uses primary data from multiple CM companies and from associated companies in the CM supply chain. In this LCA the scientists look at meat production from cradle to facility gate.
The results show that CM can compete with all conventional meat environmentally, and scores much better than beef. This conclusion is based on comparison with the ambitious benchmark for conventional products, and therefore quite robust. Compared to all meat products, both cultivated and conventional, the environmental single score and the carbon footprint of vegetable protein products is low. With a carbon footprint which is 2.5 to 4 times lower, and an environmental single score of over three and seven times lower, cultivated meat is unlikely to be able to compete with vegetable protein products on these two indicators.
When producers switch to sustainable energy, CM becomes the most environmentally friendly option for meat production. The most important drivers of the environmental impact of CM are processing energy, medium quantity and medium composition. For all these drivers an important option for improvement is a switch sustainable energy. Potential variability regarding quantity of medium used, residence time of cells in the reactors, maximum cell density and process temperature are unlikely to influence these conclusions.
In this study the scientists make a Techno-Economic Analysis for the production of cultivated meat at industrial scale, in the 2030’s.
Current CM production costs are an order of magnitude of 10,000 to 100 higher than benchmark values for comparable traditional meat products, depending on the exact requirements for medium components and its prices. In the basic scenarios of this study, they modelled a medium for which recombinant proteins, and then notably albumin, are the main cost driver, followed by growth factors. The primary data shows a large variation in the use of these two components, which reflects potential opportunities for reducing these costs that depend on the type of production process used and the type of meat produced.
Looking at the prices, they see that there are large variations in published prices. Also, the researchers have observed that these prices are falling rapidly already, which is promising for the future.
Future CM production costs: Substantial cost reductions that bring CM production costs close to the benchmark price fora traditional meat product are feasible. This requires a combination of reductions that covers nearly all aspects of the business case. Improvements in the production process and favourable choices in cell types will help drive down future costs. The primary data suggests there is quite some variation in envisioned production system design and specific process parameters.