health 101 bg_1.png

FAQs

Frequently asked questions

Find answers to your questions about cultivated meat!

 

The searchable database provides answers to the most frequent questions entered into search engines. You can enter your question or topic below, or browse topics by clicking a category.

Search the database or browse by topic:

Process

What is cultivated meat?


Cultivated meat is meat grown directly from cells. This method of production is called cellular agriculture. Meat cultivation is the process of producing meat by cultivating cells without breeding, raising, and slaughtering an animal. The end product is real meat - it looks, cooks, tastes, and nourishes the same as conventional meat. For more detailed information, see New Harvest’s Cellular Agriculture 101, Elliot Swartz’ Clean Meat 301, and GFI’s Meat Cultivation Project Report.




How is cultivated meat produced?


Cultivated meat is made through three main steps: obtaining a sample, cultivating the cells in a cultivator with growth media and scaffolding, and harvesting. First, a sample of starter cells is collected from an animal. The cell sample (or the “starter cells”) can be harvested without causing harm to the animal. Next, those cells are placed in a cultivator (also called a bioreactor). Cultivators have a heating and cooling system to control temperature, piping to deliver nutrients and oxygen, and sensor systems to monitor the environment and to measure things like pH. Inside a cultivator, cells repeatedly duplicate, quickly increasing the number of cells. Cells quickly grow when in a liquid medium and then mature into muscle and fat when attached to a solid structure or surface (called scaffolding). Piping from outside the cultivator carries growth media (containing nutrients and signalling molecules) inside to the cells. Growth media is a nutrient-rich liquid that feeds the cells so they can grow. Inside a cultivator, growth media contains the same components used to help cells grow within an animal, such as carbohydrates and proteins. Scaffolding provides a structure and surface for the cells to mature into muscle and fat, and to grow into the desired texture and form. Scaffolding can be made of many types of edible biomaterial, such as gelatin, plants, algae, or fungi. Scaffolding also provides environmental cues to encourage the cells to grow in a specific way. The final step is to harvest the meat and process it into meat products, like burgers, chicken nuggets, and steak.




What is the difference between conventional meat and cultivated meat?


The main difference between conventional meat and cultivated meat is the production method. Conventional meat is harvested from animals, and cultivated meat is harvested directly from cultivators. Both kinds of meat are made of proteins, fats, water, vitamins and minerals. In conventional animal agriculture, animals are bred and fed so that the cells in their bodies grow and multiply into meat. The animal is slaughtered in order to harvest the meat. In cellular agriculture, a cell sample is taken from an animal, and the cells are given nutrients to grow and multiply into meat. Instead of growing inside an animal, the cells are housed in “cultivators” which provide optimal conditions for cell growth. Cultivated meat is harvested from these cultivators.




How is cultivated meat structured?


Using scaffolding in the production process gives cultivated meat the shape and texture of conventional meat. In the final steps of meat cultivation, the cells attach to a scaffold, which provides a structure similar to the “extracellular matrix” that organizes cells inside of an animal. Scaffolding can be made of different types of biomaterials such as gelatin and derivatives from plants, algae or fungi. Some producers are testing 3D bioprinting for developing scaffolding. For more details, see Elliot Swartz’ Clean Meat 301.




Does cultivated meat use fetal bovine serum (FBS)?


Fetal bovine serum (FBS) has been used in early research and development for cultivated meat, but wide scale cultivated meat production will not use FBS. FBS is blood serum that is drawn from a fetal calf. It is a potent source of proteins and molecules called “growth factors.” FBS is widely used in medical research and tissue engineering. It was used in early-stage research and development for cultivated meat because viable alternatives did not yet exist. However, using FBS for large-scale meat cultivation is not viable. FBS is too costly for large-scale production, does not have a consistent composition, and carries the risk of viral contamination. Additionally, using FBS defeats the purpose of developing “slaughter-free” meat. Developing an alternative to FBS has been a top priority for cultivated meat producers. At least 10 companies have stated they have developed serum-free alternatives. For more details, see Elliot Swartz’ list of companies not using FBS.




How much cultivated meat can be made from a single cell sample?


Some companies have stated that a single cell sample could produce as much as 20,000 pounds of meat, but this would require significant technological advancement over the next decade. The amount of meat that a single cell sample can produce depends on the type of cell, the feed, the growing conditions, and other factors. Further, this measure is likely to change as researchers improve their meat cultivation methods.




What are the different names for lab-grown meat?


Cultivated meat is also called cultured meat, cell-cultured meat, lab-grown meat, slaughter-free meat, cell-based meat, clean meat and more. Differentiating the production process from conventional meat’s production process is important for transparency and informed consumer choice. To highlight this production difference, various stakeholders have given a number of different names to the product. The three most common terms used by scientists and entrepreneurs in this space are cultivated meat, cultured meat, and cell-based meat. For this website, we use the name cultivated meat, as it is a neutral term that consumer research has found to be both accurately descriptive and appealing. This term is also linguistically flexible, as it allows us to talk about the process of “meat cultivation,” the act of “cultivating meat,” the product of “cultivated meat,” and the production apparatus “cultivator” which is a common name for the bioreactors used in this form of meat production. For more detail, see GFI’s Meat Cultivation: Embracing the Science of Nature and GFI’s Consumer Response to Cellular Agriculture Messaging and Nomenclature: A Focus Group Pilot Study.




When was cultivated meat invented? Who invented cultivated meat?


In 1931, Winston Churchill wrote an essay called “Fifty Years Hence” in which he posited the concept of growing meat without farming animals. He wrote, “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.” In 2004, a Dutch entrepreneur named Willem van Eelen and a research team launched the InVitro Meat Project with government funding. Two of the researchers in that program, Professor Mark Post and Peter Verstrate cultivated the world’s first no-cow hamburger at Maastricht University in 2013 (82 years hence). Since this breakthrough, more than 75 startups in 19 different countries have been publicly announced.





Product

How many cultivated meat companies are there?


Since 2015, more than 75 cultivated meat companies have been founded around the world. There are publicly-announced cultivated meat companies in at least 19 countries. To view a map of the global producers, as well as the products being developed, click here. For more detail, see GFI’s Company Database.




Where are cultivated meat companies based?


There are cultivated meat companies all around the world, with a presence on all major continents. Explore this map of cultivated meat companies around the globe.




Who is investing in cultivated meat?


A wide range of people, companies, and even governments have invested in the cultivated meat industry or funded cultivated meat research. Many of the earliest cultivated meat company investors were mission-driven angel investors with an interest in creating sustainable and animal-free products. Accelerators and incubators have become launching pads for many companies. Several large international conventional meat companies (e.g., Tyson Ventures, Cargill, PHW) have also invested in cultivated meat companies. Nonprofits like New Harvest and the Good Food Institute have funded open-access scientific research. Additionally, governments in some countries (e.g., the Netherlands, Singapore, the European commission) have allocated resourcesto academic labs for the scientific development of meat cultivation technology. Finally, the U.S. National Science Foundation recently awarded a $3.55 million research grant to a team studying cultivated meat at University of California, Davis. For more details, please see Bringing cultured meat to market: Technical, socio-political, and regulatory challenges in cellular agriculture, The Spoon’s Singapore to Invest $535 million in R&D, including Cultured Meat and Robots, Tech Crunch’s Dutch startup Meatable is developing lab-grown pork and has $10 million in new financing to do it, and NSF’s Award Abstract GCR: Laying the Scientific and Engineering Foundation for Sustainable Cultivated Meat Production.




Is cultivated meat GMO?


Cultivated meat does not require genetic engineering, but cultivated meat companies could choose to use genetic engineering. Some companies have stated that they will not use genetic engineering, while other companies are exploring how this technology could improve nutrition or make production more efficient and consistent. Specifically, genetic engineering could result in nutritional improvements like higher levels of antioxidants, enable starter cells to more readily double in number, and to grow into specialized cells like muscle and fat. As with tomatoes, apples, and corn, there will probably be GMO and non-GMO cultivated meat. Of course, in countries where genetically modified foods are not permitted, only non-GMO cultivated meat will be available.




What kinds of meat can be made with cellular agriculture?


Theoretically, any type of meat can be cultivated. Cultivated meat companies span the globe and are working on a wide range of products suited for many cultural traditions. Most companies are cultivating ground meat products, such as meatballs and chicken nuggets. One company has developed the technology to grow small pieces of steak and another company is cultivating caviar. Most companies are cultivating cells from land animal species that are common in conventional agriculture. Land animal species under cultivation includes cows, bison, pigs, sheep, goat, alpaca, kangaroo, chicken, and duck. Aquatic species under cultivation include salmon, shrimp, lobster, yellowtail, mahi mahi, bluefin tuna, and grouper. Some companies are specializing in one product, ingredient, or part of the supply chain, such as fish maw, foie gras, cultivated pork fat, cultivated blood, and growth media (the feed for the cells). Cultivation of materials (leather, rhino horn) and milk are also under research and development.




Are there cultivated meat pet foods?


Several cultivated meat startups are developing pet food. These companies are focusing on cultivating the types of meat more commonly consumed by dogs and cats, such as mouse and rabbit meat.




What is the difference between cultivated meat and plant-based products?


Cultivated meat is real meat - the same end product as conventional meat. By contrast, plant-based meat simulates the taste and texture of conventional meat using plant ingredients. Rather than feeding plants (typically corn and soy) to an animal to convert into muscle, plant-based meat is produced by combining plant-based ingredients (like pea or soy). The best plant-based meats are similar to conventional meat at a sensory level (how they taste and how they cook), but no plant-based meat has the same cellular structure as conventional meat. Cultivating meat is the process of producing meat directly from animal cells. The product is made of the same cells that make up conventional meat, such as animal muscle, fat, and connective tissues.




When will cultivated meat be commercially available?


Singapore recently granted the first regulatory approval for a cultivated meat product - a chicken nugget produced by Eat Just. Several other cultivated meat startups have stated that they aim to debut a product commercially within the next 1-2 years. Large scale production and sale will take longer, and initial products will most likely be blended products made up of cultivated meat and plant-based ingredients. Initial availability will likely be limited to specific restaurants in specific regions. Additional regions that are being targeted for cultivated meat market entry include Japan, The United States, China, The European Union, The United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, and Hong Kong. For more details, see Tech Crunch’s article on cultivated chicken in Singapore.




Where will consumers first be able to buy cultivated meat?


Cultivated meat is likely to be served in select high-end restaurants before it is available in grocery stores. Debuting cultivated meat through restaurants will allow startups to begin sales while their production operations are still relatively small scale. Partnering with chefs would ensure the first cultivated meat dishes are well-prepared and delicious.




How much does cultivated meat cost?


The cost of cultivated meat production is high but decreasing rapidly. The first cultivated meat burger in 2013 reportedly cost $332,000 in research funds to produce. More recently, a strip of steak and chicken nuggets were both reported to cost $50 each to produce in 2019, and in 2020 a chicken burger cost $35 to produce. These prototypes were produced at a small scale and reflect the high cost of research and development. Startups are working to move out of research labs and produce cultivated meat at a large scale, which could mean the price could be the same or less than conventional meat over time. However, the cultivated meat products are likely to be much more expensive when they are initially commercially available. For more detailed information, see Reuter’s First taste of test-tube burger declared 'close to meat', Vice’s No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of this $1,000 Meatball, The Guardian’s World’s first lab-grown steak revealed – but the taste needs work, The Guardian’s I tried the world's first no-kill, lab-grown chicken burger, and Bloomberg’s These $50 Chicken Nuggets Were Grown in a Lab.




What does cultivated meat taste like?


Cultivated meat will taste similar to, or just like conventional meat. However, relatively few people have actually tasted cultivated meat at this point. Companies have offered small tastings to select individuals, including employees, investors, and influencers. Journalists have remarked that the cultivated products taste like conventional meat. Ultimately, the quality of taste will likely vary across companies and products, especially in early years of production. Some companies will aim to replicate the taste of conventional meat exactly. Others will aim to improve the flavor and texture.




Is cultivated meat kosher?


In principle, cultivated meat could be kosher but it depends on how companies develop their product. Cultivated meat produced from cells taken from a kosher species already having undergone ritual slaughter would almost certainly be kosher. Regarding cells taken from a living animal or from a non-kosher species, there remains room for debate. Jewish authorities and some cultivated meat companies are actively engaged in the process of trying to create a kosher cultivated meat product. More definitive religious and scholarly opinions will develop as we learn more about the cultivated meat production process. For detailed information, see CTech’s Israeli Rabbi Says Lab-Grown Pork Meat Is Kosher, Chabad’s Is the Lab-Created Burger Kosher?, A Jewish Religious Perspective on Cellular Agriculture from Kenigsberg and Zivotofsky, Quartz’ Silicon Valley wrestles with religion. Is high-tech “clean meat” kosher and halal?, My Jewish Learning’s Kosher Slaughter: An Introduction, and The Yeshiva World’s VIDEO: Is Lab-Grown Meat Parve?




Is cultivated meat halal?


Some companies are developing products with the aim of halal certification. Whether cultivated meat is considered halal will depend on specific aspects of the production process. Halal certification will likely be possible if the starter cells are not considered meat and if the product does not touch non-halal ingredients. More definitive religious and scholarly opinions will develop as we learn more about the cultivated meat production process. For more detailed information, see Salaam Gateway’s ’Clean meat’: Is lab-grown chicken and duck halal?, Cultured Meat in Islamic Perspective from Hamdan et al., CMS20’s Regulating Cultured Meat for Faith-based Communities, and Islamic Method Of Slaughtering from the Department of Halaal Certification EU.





Health

Will antibiotics be used to produce cultivated meat?


Antibiotic use is not expected to be part of the cultivated meat production process. Because cultivated meat is produced under controlled and sterile conditions, there is no need for antibiotics. Antibiotics can also have negative effects on cell growth, which is another reason for companies to avoid their use. Controlled conditions, management of batches, monitoring tools, and traceability measures contribute to a scenario in which no antibiotics are used in production However, there may be limited use of antibiotics in pre-production phases, such as in research (cell line development) or cell banking (storing cell lines). For more detailed information, see A Review of Antibiotic Use in Food Animals: Perspective, Policy, and Potential from Landers et al.




Is cultivated meat safe?


Cultivated meat is considered a new type of food. Like all new foods, cultivated meat will be strictly assessed initially and closely controlled by regulatory bodies within each country before it is available to the public. Food safety is paramount in novel food types internationally. Because of this strict regulation, approved cultivated meat products will be safe to eat. In the US, the FDA and USDA will jointly oversee the safety of cultivated meat. For beef, pork, and poultry, the FDA will oversee the process through cell collection and the USDA will oversee production, harvest, and sales. For fish and seafood, the FDA will oversee the entire process. Cultivated meat production will be associated with some different risks and some similar risks to conventional meat. Conventional meat poses risk to human health in terms of illnesses, such as Salmonella and Mad Cow Disease. Cultivated meat products will be produced in a closed, clean, and highly controlled system, meaning that the risk of illnesses from cultivated meat will likely be lower than conventional meat. If the nutritional composition is the same as conventional meat, cultivated meat could hold the same risk for diet-related diseases such as heart disease.




What are the regulations around cultivated meat?


Around the world, regulatory agencies will oversee cultivated meat production. So far, the US, the EU, Singapore, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have begun to determine the regulatory process. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will jointly regulate cultivated meat. For beef, pork, and poultry, the FDA will regulate meat cultivation from cell collection until harvest. This is because meat cultivation is similar to the tissue culturing processes in the pharmaceutical industry currently overseen by the FDA. From harvest through packaging and sales, the USDA will regulate the process. For fish and seafood, the FDA will oversee the entire process. In the European Union, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will apply the Novel Foods Authorisation to regulate cultivated meat. In the United Kingdom, the Food Standards Agency will regulate cultivated meat production, and producers will go through an authorization process very similar to the Novel Foods Authorisation in Europe. In Singapore, a regulatory framework is also being established by the Singapore Food Agency. In December 2020, Singapore approved the world’s first cultivated meat product — a chicken bite manufactured by Eat Just. For the approval process, an independent panel of experts assessed the product’s safety, considering a variety of factors specific to cultured meat. Among others, these included the identity and source of the cells, changes in the metabolic properties of the cells, and a full risk assessment of the product. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has declared that cultivated meat would be regulated within existing standards in their Food Standards Code under the Novel Foods Framework. In this framework many different aspects of food safety and societal factors are assessed, including stability, identity, purity, composition and defining the concentration of toxins, allergens, how the food is metabolized, and how the food differs from conventional products. For more detailed information, see the USDA and FDA’s formal agreement to jointly regulate cultivated meat, the EU’s Novel Foods page, and Food Navigator’s Rethinking an ‘arduous and onerous process: What could Brexit mean for novel foods?, Food Navigator’s Singaporean Next Gen products, MIT Technology Reviews’ article on cultivated meat in Singapore, Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s page on cell-based meat, and Good Meat’s FAQ page.




Is cultivated meat healthy?


The nutrient content (and taste) of cultivated meat will depend on the type of cells and the make-up of the growth media. This is similar to conventional animal agriculture, where the specific breed of animal and the feed it is given can affect the nutrition and taste of the meat. Some companies are developing cultivated meat that is nutritionally the same as conventional meat. Other companies are exploring ways to improve the typical nutrient composition of meat. For example, cultivated meat could potentially have higher amounts of omega fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, or lower amounts of saturated fat or cholesterol. Additionally, cultivated meat will carry a reduced risk for foodborne illness, as it is grown in a sterile environment and not exposed to feedlot or slaughterhouse conditions. For more detail, see The Myth of Cultured Meat: A Review and New Harvest’s What Is Cellular Agriculture?.





Environment

Is cultivated meat better for the environment?


Cultivated meat is projected to measure well on most environmental factors compared to conventional meat from industrial farms. However, these projections (called ‘life-cycle assessments’) depend on many assumptions (e.g., that production will only require a certain amount of water), and these assumptions might not hold true. Based on what we know now, scientists expect that cultivated meat will require less land than conventional meat, and will produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than some (but not all) conventional meats. Cultivators are energy-intensive to operate, and could lead to higher energy use for cultivated meat. Powering cultivated meat production with clean energy could be a high priority to reduce emissions.




How much energy does cultivated meat production use?


Because a cultivated meat factory has not been built yet, we don’t know exactly how much energy it will use. Many different design decisions and technology breakthroughs will affect the amount of energy needed to grow cultivated meat. Cultivated meat production will need energy for different processes than conventional farming. Raising animals requires energy to fertilize and farm feed crops, house the animals, transport and slaughter them, and process the meat. With cultivated meat, pumps will be needed to circulate growth media, filter out waste products, and feed the cells. A cultivated meat facility will need to carefully heat and cool the cells to keep them at the optimal temperature for growth. And, like with animals, some energy will be needed to produce nutrients to feed the cells. Scientists have estimated how much energy cultivated meat production could require, based on the way we currently grow cells in other industries and some basic assumptions about how a future cultivated meat factory might work. The results range from 35 to 260 megajoules per kilogram of meat. For reference, a gallon of gasoline contains about 131 megajoules, and a kilowatt hour of electricity is 3.6 megajoules. How does that compare to the meat we eat now? A very efficient cultivated meat facility could use about as much energy as conventional pork production in the U.S., while a less-efficient facility could use as much or more energy than conventional beef in the U.S. Renewable energy sources, like electricity from wind and solar, have the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of cultivated meat by more than 80%. For more detailed information, see Environmental impacts of cultured meat: alternative production scenarios from Tuomisto et al., Anticipatory Life Cycle Analysis of In Vitro Biomass Cultivation for Cultured Meat Production in the United States from Mattick et al., Meat alternatives: life cycle assessment of most known meat substitutes from Smetana et al., Environmental performance in the US broiler poultry sector: Life cycle energy use and greenhouse gas, ozone depleting, acidifying and eutrophying emissions from Pellieter, A retrospective analysis of the United States poultry industry: 1965 compared with 2010 from Putman et al., Comparative life cycle environmental impacts of three beef production strategies in the Upper Midwestern United States from Pellieter et al., Environmental footprints of beef cattle production in the United States from Rotz et al, and LCA of cultivated meat. Future projections for different scenarios from Odegard & Sinke.




How much land does cultivated meat production use?


Several studies have estimated the land-use requirements of cultivated meat at 0.5 to 5.5 square meters per kilogram of meat produced, which is far less land than used for conventional meat production. Industrial farms in the United States use less land to feed and grow animals than many places around the world. But it still takes American farmers between 12 and 36 square meters per kilogram of meat to produce pork and about 12 square meters per kilogram of meat to produce chicken. Raising beef cattle takes much more land: between 23 and 65 square meters of cropland and 40 to 310 square meters of pasture or rangeland per kilogram for beef. For more detail, see Environmental impacts of cultured meat: alternative production scenarios from Tuomisto et al., Anticipatory Life Cycle Analysis of In Vitro Biomass Cultivation for Cultured Meat Production in the United States from Mattick et al., Meat alternatives: life cycle assessment of most known meat substitutes from Smetana et al., Environmental impacts of food production from Our World in Data, Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits from Springmann et al., Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers from Poore and Nemececk, and LCA of cultivated meat. Future projections for different scenarios from Odegard & Sinke.




How much greenhouse gas emissions does cultivated meat create?


Because no cultivated meat factories have been built yet, estimates of the carbon footprint of cultivated meat are based on scientific and engineering models. Scientists expect that the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cultivated meat could be between 2.5 and 25 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents (‘CO2-equivalents’) per kilogram of meat. For comparison, conventional meat from industrial farms in the United States emit about 28-210 kilograms of CO2-equivalents per kilogram of beef, 8-13 kilograms of CO2-equivalents per kilogram of pork, and 4-6 kilograms of CO2-equivalents per kilogram of chicken. Scientific models of cultivated meat production assume the production facilities will use the same energy sources we use today - mostly fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources, like electricity from wind and solar, have the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of cultivated meat by more than 80%. For more detail, see Environmental impacts of cultured meat: alternative production scenarios from Tuomisto et al., Anticipatory Life Cycle Analysis of In Vitro Biomass Cultivation for Cultured Meat Production in the United States from Mattick et al., Meat alternatives: life cycle assessment of most known meat substitutes from Smetana et al., Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers from Poore and Nemececk, A retrospective analysis of the United States poultry industry: 1965 compared with 2010 from Putman et al., Environmental performance in the US broiler poultry sector: Life cycle energy use and greenhouse gas, ozone depleting, acidifying and eutrophying emissions from Pellieter, and LCA of cultivated meat. Future projections for different scenarios from Odegard & Sinke.




How much water does cultivated meat production use?


It appears that growing cultivated meat will take about as much water as conventional meat, but there is a lot of uncertainty about the water footprints of cultivated meat and many animal-based meats. Most of this uncertainty comes from differences in water use on farms that supply feed for animals and cells. Farms that irrigate their crops can use huge amounts of water, while farms that don’t need to irrigate can use very little. Cultivated meat production might use water to grow the crops used to “feed” the cells, to create the liquid media the cells grow in, and to clean the facility. Scientists estimate that it could take 38 to 840 liters of water to provide one kilogram of cultivated meat. In conventional meat production, water is used to grow the feed crops, provided to the animals to drink, and used to clean slaughterhouses and meat packing plants. In the United States and Europe, it often takes between 500 and 20,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of beef, 180 to 560 liters of water per kilogram of pork, and 220 to 1300 liters of water per kilogram of chicken. Around the world, seafood farms use 1100 to 10,000 liters per kilogram of fish and 660 to 4400 liters per kilogram of shrimp and prawns. For more detail, see Environmental impacts of cultured meat: alternative production scenarios from Tuomisto et al., Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers from Poore and Nemececk, Environmental footprints of beef cattle production in the United States from Rotz et al, and LCA of cultivated meat. Future projections for different scenarios from Odegard & Sinke.





Society

What are the pros and cons of cultivated meat?


Cultivated meat is under research and development, so the actual impact it will have on our food system by 2050 is not certain. Thus, rather than pros and cons, what we have now are “hopes” and “concerns.” If cultivated meat was a significant food source by 2050, it might mean that people have a more affordable protein choice with a lower risk of foodborne illness, a customizable nutritional profile, and fewer contaminants (especially in the case of seafood). On a larger scale, cultivated meat could make it possible to feed more people while using less land and water and creating less pollution. Energy-associated impacts can be mitigated by a transition to renewables. By reducing the amount of land and other resources needed for meat production, cultivated meat could increase global food security. This could also help stop biodiversity loss and habitat destruction. Fewer farm animals would be bred, raised in confined conditions, and slaughtered at a young age. Economically, meat cultivation could create new jobs in local economies, and be a complementary production system to smallholder farms. However, there are many unknowns. One of the biggest concerns is cost and food equity. The production cost of cultivated meat is high because it is still being researched and developed. In its early stages on the market, only high-income individuals will be able to afford it. Cultivated meat is projected to measure well on most environmental factors. However, these projections (called ‘life cycle assessments’) depend on many assumptions, and these assumptions cannot perfectly predict the future. Regarding health, it will take long-term epidemiological studies to reveal any positive or negative health impacts associated with dietary changes over time. From a nutritional standpoint, wide availability of cultivated meat could mean that more people eat high-meat diets (which have been shown to be associated with higher risk of chronic disease).




Who are the advocates for and critics of cultivated meat?


Across the meat industry, environmentalists, public health advocates, and animal rights activists, different people have different opinions about cultivated meat. Advocates applaud the potential benefits of cultivated meat for the economy, public health, and the environment. However, critics raise concerns about potential negative impacts on many of the same issues. The meat industry has both critics and advocates. Meat industry trade groups have expressed concerns about ranching and farming jobs as well as consumer safety. Some trade groups have asked government agencies to restrict the use of the word ‘meat’ on packages. On the other hand, many large meat companies have invested in cultivated meat companies. Individual farmers, ranchers, and fishers have diverse opinions themselves, with some raising livelihood concerns and others welcoming reduced pressure to meet the rising global protein demand. Some environmentalists are advocates and some are critics. Studies of cultivated meat’s environmental impact generally suggest overall positive environmental benefits related to slowing climate change, biodiversity, forest health, and balanced nutrient cycles. However, some studies suggest that cultivated meat will use more energy, so some environmentalists are more cautious and note the importance of using renewable energy sources. Animal activists generally support the technology as a way to reduce reliance on animals in food production, but the use of fetal bovine serum in early research and development of the technology has resulted in criticism among some animal activists as well. Finally, public health advocates raise hopes and concerns. Production in a sterile environment suggests society would have less foodborne illnesses and antibiotic resistance. Some public health advocates note that cultivated meat is still meat, and its consumption wouldn’t change the rate of diet-related diseases that are associated with high meat consumption. For more detailed information, see the New York Times’ You Call That Meat? Not So Fast, Cattle Ranchers Say and Food Frontiers’ Farming and food industry bodies unite to focus on the future of protein.




Is cultivated meat vegan?


Whether or not cultivated meat is considered vegan is up to each individual. There are a few considerations around this question. First, cultivated meat itself is derived from an animal source. If an individual considers “vegan” to mean abstaining from animal-sourced products, then cultivated meat would not be vegan. Many vegans and vegetarians simply abstain from products that require harming an animal. Because stem cells can be harvested from a live animal without harming them, then cultivated meat may be considered vegan in this sense. If starter cells are obtained from a slaughtered animal, then vegans or vegetarians might not opt to consume cultivated meat, while others may be more comfortable with consumption since the amount of meat produced from one animal will be quite large.




Does cultivated meat kill animals?


Meat cultivation would drastically reduce the number of animals slaughtered for food. If animals are killed for cultivated meat this would be a result of obtaining cells from a slaughtered animal rather than a live animal. However, this is just one of the many methods used for collecting starter cells and the cell collection occurs rarely, since most cells used for cultivation will be sourced from a cell bank. Most companies are using live animals to obtain starter cells through various non-harmful methods. However, obtaining cells from a slaughtered animal is possible, and the main reason would be to obtain a large number of cells from one animal as opposed to returning to the animal many times for new batches of starter cells. If slaughter is used for obtaining starter cells, the number of animals killed would be a tiny fraction in comparison to the number slaughtered for conventional meat from industrial farming systems. One other issue raised in connection with animal slaughter is the use of fetal bovine serum (FBS), which was used in early-stage research and development. However, FBS is not viable at scale, as it is expensive, not available in the quantities needed for large scale production, and comes with ethical concerns related to obtaining blood from fetal calves at the time of slaughter. As a result, development of animal-free serum is a high priority for cultivated meat companies, and many have already completely transitioned to animal-free serums as they work toward scale.





FAQs

 

Feedback or questions

We’ll continue to add FAQs as additional common questions arise. Please submit a question or feedback!

I want to submit: