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The Product 201

 
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The Product

What Is Cultivated Meat?

Produced through cellular agriculture, cultivated meat is meat—grown directly from cells. Cultivated meat is also called cultured meat and lab-grown meat.

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Many Species

Theoretically, any kind of meat can be cultivated. Producers are cultivating meat from many different species, both domesticated and wild.

On land? Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, duck, kangaroo, and more.

In the sea? Salmon, mahi mahi, bluefin tuna, grouper, shrimp, lobster, and more.

For pet food? Mice and rabbits.

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Regulated Production

Government agencies will oversee cultivated meat production. These regulators will ensure product safety, from cell sampling to packaging.

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture will regulate cultivated meat production.

Each country will have its own regulatory process, overseen by government agencies such as the Singapore Food Agency, the European Food Safety Association, and the UK Food Standards Agency.

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Availability

Currently, it’s only possible to buy cultivated meat from one restaurant in Singapore. Some startups have stated that they aim to debut a product within one to two years. Large scale production and availability will take longer.

Cultivated meat will likely be available in high-end restaurants before it is available in grocery stores. Hybrid products—those made from both cultivated and conventional meat or from both cultivated and plant-based ingredients—are likely to be more affordable early on.

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Product Types

The first cultivated meat products for sale will likely be ground meat, like burgers and sausages. With time, cultivated steaks and filets will be available.

Thicker cuts and whole-cut products are possible to cultivate, but are more complex to produce. Other non-meat products—like leather, gelatin, and milk—are also under development.

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Nutrition

In general, cultivated meat will have the same nutrients as conventional meat. Some companies are working to cultivate meat with an optimized nutritional profile.

Some producers are working to optimize the nutrition. For instance, cultivated meat products could have less saturated fat or higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids or antioxidants.

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Faith and Food

Some producers are working to develop cultivated meat that could be classified kosher or halal. However, this is a topic of much debate.

Different Jewish scholars and leaders have different perspectives on whether cultivated meat could be kosher. This depends on several choices made during the production process. Similarly, Halal certification will also depend on specific cultivation methods.

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Taste

Cultivated meat tastes like conventional meat. Most producers are working to match the taste and texture of conventional meat.

Some producers aim to make cultivated meat that improves  upon the flavor and texture of conventional meat. More varied tastes and texture options may exist in the future.

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Cost

Cultivated meat production is expensive, but the cost is decreasing rapidly. Over time, cultivated meat could cost the same or less than conventional meat.

As scale of production and efficiency increases, the price will decrease. Affordable prices would increase global access to protein for a greater number of people.

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Terminology

Cultivated meat has many names, including cultured meat, cell-cultured meat, and lab-grown meat. There are many perspectives about what to call this product.

Ensuring that consumers understand the difference between cultivated meat and conventional meat is important for transparency and informed consumer choice.

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icon product 1.png

Many Species

Theoretically, any kind of meat can be cultivated. Producers are cultivating meat from many different species, both domesticated and wild.

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On land? Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, duck, kangaroo, and more.
In the sea? Salmon, mahi mahi, bluefin tuna, grouper, shrimp, lobster, and more.
For pet food? Mice and rabbits.
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icon product 4.png

Regulated Production

Government agencies will oversee cultivated meat production. These regulators will ensure product safety, from cell sampling to packaging.

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Heading 4

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture will regulate cultivated meat production.
Each country will have its own regulatory process, overseen by government agencies such as the Singapore Food Agency, the European Food Safety Association, and the UK Food Standards Agency.
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icon product 7.png

Availability

Currently, it’s only possible to buy cultivated meat from one restaurant in Singapore. Some startups have stated that they aim to debut a product within one to two years. Large scale production and availability will take longer.

icon product w7.png

Heading 4

Cultivated meat will likely be available in high-end restaurants before it is available in grocery stores. Hybrid products—those made from both cultivated and conventional meat or from both cultivated and plant-based ingredients—are likely to be more affordable early on.
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icon product 2.png

Product Types

The first cultivated meat products for sale will likely be ground meat, like burgers and sausages. With time, cultivated steaks and filets will be available.

icon product w2.png

Heading 4

Thicker cuts and whole-cut products are possible to cultivate, but are more complex to produce. Other non-meat products—like leather, gelatin, and milk—are also under development.
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icon product 5.png

Nutrition

In general, cultivated meat will have the same or similar nutrients as conventional meat. Some companies are working to cultivate meat with an optimized nutritional profile.

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Heading 4

Some producers are working to optimize the nutrition. For instance, cultivated meat products could have less saturated fat or higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids or antioxidants.
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icon product 8.png

Faith and Food

Some producers are working to develop cultivated meat that could be classified kosher or halal. However, this is a topic of much debate.

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Heading 4

Different Jewish scholars and leaders have different perspectives on whether cultivated meat could be kosher. This depends on several choices made during the production process. Similarly, Halal certification will also depend on specific cultivation methods.
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icon product 3.png

Taste

Cultivated meat tastes like conventional meat. Most producers are working to match the taste and texture of conventional meat.

icon product w3.png

Heading 4

Some producers aim to make cultivated meat that improves  upon the flavor and texture of conventional meat. More varied tastes and texture options may exist in the future.
gradient box.png
icon product 6.png

Cost

Cultivated meat production is expensive, but the cost is decreasing rapidly. Over time, cultivated meat could cost the same or less than conventional meat.

icon product w6.png

Heading 4

As scale of production and efficiency increases, the price will decrease. Affordable prices would increase global access to protein for a greater number of people.
gradient box.png
icon product 9.png

Terminology

Cultivated meat has many names, including cultured meat, cell-cultured meat, and lab-grown meat. There are many perspectives about what to call this product.

icon product w9.png

Heading 4

Ensuring that consumers understand the difference between cultivated meat and conventional meat is important for transparency and informed consumer choice.

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The Product 101

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Land and aquatic species

Producers cultivate meat from a variety of species, both domesticated and wild.

Any type of meat can be cultivated. Cultivated meat companies span the globe and are working on a wide range of products from many cultural traditions. Cells from both wild and domesticated animals can be cultivated to produce meat and materials like leather.

Most companies are cultivating cells from species that are common in conventional agriculture, including both land animal and aquatic species.

Cultivated meat producers are currently developing meat from land animal species, some of which include:

  • Cows (beef)

  • Bison

  • Elk

  • Pigs (pork)

  • Sheep (lamb, mutton)

  • Goat

  • Alpaca

  • Kangaroo

  • Chicken

  • Duck

Cultivated meat producers are currently developing seafood from these aquatic species, including:

  • Salmon

  • Shrimp

  • Lobster

  • Yellowtail

  • Mahi mahi

  • Bluefin tuna

  • Grouper

  • Crab

  • Crawfish

Companies are assessing the taste and growth potential of cells from a wide variety of species, including those not typically domesticated for food.

CC-BY-NC_CM-header%202_credit%20Wild%20T

Photos by Wild Type, Avant Meats, New Age Meats, Shiok Meats, BlueNalu via Creative Commons, licensed under CC-BY-NC 4.0.

Product types

Most early products will be ground meat, like burgers, sausages, and nuggets.

Most companies are producing ground meat because the texture is easier to match. Examples of cultivated ground meat products include:

  • Beef meatballs

  • Chicken nuggets

  • Shrimp dumplings

  • Fish cakes

  • Lobster terrine and lobster gazpacho

Many of the first cultivated meat products are likely to be sold as blended products made up of cultivated meat and plant-based ingredients.

Recently, companies have debuted cultivated steak, lox salmon, and bacon. Developing products with the same structure as steak requires more complex growth environments than ground meat requires. While theoretically possible, thicker cuts and whole-cut products are more technologically challenging to produce. One company has publicly demonstrated a ribeye steak.

Foie gras, fish maw, and other delicacies are under development.

Some cultivated meat producers are focusing on delicacies. For example, cultivated foie gras (fatty goose or duck liver) and cultivated fish maw (dried swim bladder of large fish like cod) are under development.

One company produces cultivated rhino horn. Cultivating meat and materials could reduce poaching of rhino or other endangered animals.

Other products

Cultivated pet food

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

Cultivated leather and other materials

Some companies are cultivating materials or ingredients from animal cells, such as leather and gelatin.

Cultivated human milk for infants

At least two companies are exploring the production of human milk for infants that is nutritionally equivalent to breast milk. This technology cultivates human mammary cells which are capable of producing many of the components present in milk.

The same process could also be used to cultivate animal mammary cells to create dairy products, such as cow or sheep cheeses, butters, and yogurts.

Cultivated fat and muscle as ingredients

Several cultivated meat companies aim to produce fat or muscle from various animal species to be used as ingredients in other meat alternative products.

Taste

Cultivated meat tastes like conventional meat.

Limited public tastings to date

Most producers are trying to replicate the taste and texture of conventional meat. However, relatively few people have tasted cultivated meat.

Academics and companies have offered small tastings to select individuals, including employees, investors, and influencers.   Journalists have remarked that the cultivated products taste like conventional meat. Most recently, cultivated chicken has been sold in Singapore at the restaurant 1880, with restaurant dining and home delivery options available. Ultimately, the quality of taste will likely vary across companies and products, especially in early years of production.

Early products will likely be similar to current conventional products on the market.

Research and development efforts are underway to match the taste, nutrition, and texture of conventional meat so that consumers have access to familiar products. However, most products initially available on the market are likely to be processed products (meatball, nuggets, dumplings), rather than structured products (filet).

Other producers aim to improve upon the flavor and texture of conventional meat.

Taste enhancement could be achieved by choosing specific species, starter cells, nutrients, or scaffolding. This is similar to how conventional meat production influences the taste of meat through selection of breeding lines, types of feed (grain or grass), or housing (pasture or pens).

Companies

Since 2015, more than 75 cultivated meat companies have been founded around the world.

There are cultivated meat companies all around the world, with a presence on all six major continents. Explore this New Protein Map to learn which companies are creating, supporting, and funding the production of cultivated meat.

Safety

Regulatory agencies will oversee the production and sale of cultivated meat.

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 up until cell collection and the USDA will oversee production, harvest, and sales. For fish and seafood, the FDA will oversee the entire process. The agencies have not yet offered full detail on the regulatory approval and oversight process.

Cultivated meat will likely carry less risk of exposure to pathogens and less risk of foodborne illness.

Cultivated meat production occurs in a sterile environment using a closed process in which bacteria cannot easily enter.

Conventional meat frequently carries pathogens (Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, and E. coli.). This is because the final stages of production occur in slaughterhouses, where exposure to intestinal pathogens is essentially unavoidable.

Nutrition

The nutrient content of cultivated meat could be the same or better as conventional 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.

The nutrient content (and taste) of cultivated meat will depend on the type of cells and the growth media. This is similar to conventional animal agriculture, where the specific breed of animal and the animal’s feed affect the nutrition and taste of the meat.

Availability and cost

Currently, cultivated meat is only for sale in Singapore.

Cultivated meat is not yet commercially available in most countries. The Food Agency in Singapore recently cleared one cultivated chicken product for commercial sale in 2021. In other countries, regulatory bodies (such as the FDA and USDA in the US) are in the process of developing protocols for safety review. Several cultivated meat startups have stated that they aim to debut a product commercially within the next one to two years.

Many companies have held press events and small tastings of cultivated meat, but these have all been prototypes produced at a small scale. One company in Israel serves cultivated chicken at a restaurant for free, but since sale is not approved, these are considered public tastings.   Scaling meat cultivation from R&D size to industrial-production size is a scientific and engineering hurdle for all cultivated meat startups. Hybrid products — such as those made from both cultivated and conventional meat or from both cultivated meat and plant-based ingredients — are more likely to be easier to produce and more affordable early on.

Once there is an established regulatory approval process, cultivated meat will likely first be available in specific restaurants in particular regions. Companies could also roll out cultivated meat through meal-delivery services, direct-to-consumer models, or select launches in grocery stores. Currently, cultivated chicken is the only product available for public purchase, and it is only available at restaurant 1880 in Singapore. Over the coming decades, continuous improvements to the production process will make cultivated meat more affordable and more available.

The cost of producing cultivated meat 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.      However, these products were produced in research facilities, rather than production facilities, so they aren’t accurate indicators of cultivated meat’s price when produced for sale.

Startups are working to make cultivated meat the same price as conventional meat, but cultivated meat is likely to be much more expensive when it is first commercially available. As production efficiency increases over time, the price of cultivated meat could become equivalent to or less than conventional meat.   This could increase food security for a greater number of people across the globe.

Religious labels

Cultivated meat companies can develop and label meat products to be in alignment with religious needs.

After learning about cultivated meat, many wonder whether these products will fall within religious dietary guidelines. Two main questions are whether cultivated meat can be kosher or halal. Will the production methods of cultivated meat allow some people to eat cultivated meat while still adhering to their faith-based dietary guidelines? That depends on the specifics of cultivated meat production.

In principle, cultivated meat could be kosher, but it depends on how companies develop their product.

Cultivated meat could certainly be kosher, however the conditions necessary to achieve this are still up for debate. Some rabbis have speculated that even cultivated meat originating from a non-kosher species could nonetheless be kosher-certified,    but the majority of opinion currently tends towards a more traditional application of kosher rules. At least one leading company is actively exploring the question of developing kosher cultivated meat.

The identity of the starter cells is key to whether the product will ultimately be deemed kosher or not. Both the type of animal from which cells are derived (kosher vs non-kosher species) and the type of cell (muscle tissue, non-edible tissue such as feathers or fur, or embryonic stem cells) will be significant factors.

Another question to be addressed is whether ritual (kosher) slaughter will be required before the collection of starter cells. Jewish dietary laws prohibit the consumption of “flesh from a living animal”. Whether cultivated meat will be subject to this prohibition will likely revolve around the extent to which Jewish leaders classify the starter cells as “meat.”    The type of starter cell likely matters here—muscle cells are more likely considered “meat,” whereas starter cells that come from feathers, hair, saliva, or even embryonic stem cells are less likely to be considered “meat.”

Nearly all Jewish authorities would agree that if starter cells are collected from an animal that was slaughtered in accordance with kosher slaughter laws, then the resulting cultivated meat would likely be considered kosher. However if starter cells are collected from a living animal, then the resulting cultivated meat might not be classified as kosher.         Consuming prohibited species (such as swine) is likely to stay prohibited, even for cultivated meat.

More definitive religious and scholarly opinions will develop as we learn more about the cultivated meat production process.

Cultivated meat can be developed so that it is halal.

Similarly, halal certification will depend on how the starter cells were obtained, the ingredients in the growth medium, and whether the product touched non-halal ingredients.

Some companies are aiming to develop halal-certified cultivated meat. Whether cultivated meat is considered halal will depend on three specific aspects of the production process. First, starter cells must be obtained from an animal that has been slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law, whether these are embryonic or adult stem cells.    However, fish is an exception. Producers can take starter cells from a live fish and, if all other requirements are met, the cultivated meat may be considered halal. Second, the growth media used to feed the cells must be free of animal components.    Lastly, any ingredients used in production should not touch non-halal materials.

International Islamic Fiqh Academy’s Director of Fatwa and Sharia rulings, Dr. Abdul Qahir Qamar has shared that, as long as the cells come from a live animal, as long as the process is environmentally friendly and not “harmful” in any way, as long as blood and haram animals are kept out of the production process, then the cultivated meat is halal, though it is not necessarily considered meat, but “cultured meat”.

Genetic engineering

Some cultivated meat production will use genetic engineering, and some will not.

It is possible to produce cultivated meat with, or without, the use of genetic engineering. As such, some companies have stated they will produce non-GM cultivated meat, and others will produce GM cultivated meat. Academic researchers and companies are exploring how genetic engineering of starter cells could improve meat’s nutritional profile or make production more efficient and consistent.

Specifically, genetically engineering could enable starter cells to:

  • more readily grow and multiply in number

  • easily mature into the specialized cells that comprise meat (like muscle and fat)

  • produce meat with nutritional improvements (like higher levels of antioxidants)

As with tomatoes, apples, and corn, there will probably be GM and non-GM cultivated meat. Of course, in places where genetically modified foods are not permitted, such as the European Union, only non-GM cultivated meat will be available.

Terminology

Cultivated meat is also called cultured meat and lab-grown meat.

Descriptor terms

Differentiating cultivated meat’s production process from conventional meat’s production process is important for transparency and for consumers to make informed choices. To highlight this production difference, a long list of descriptor terms have been attached to the word ‘meat’ to refer to meat produced through cellular agriculture methods.

The most common terms are:

  • cultivated meat

  • cultured meat

  • cell-cultured meat

  • lab-grown meat

  • 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 familiar, understandable, and accurately descriptive.    The term cultivated meat is also linguistically flexible. It allows us to talk about the process of “meat cultivation,” the act of “cultivating meat,” the product of “cultivated meat.” Additionally, “cultivator” is a common name for the bioreactors used in this form of meat production.

For many, the term lab-grown is the first name they hear to describe meat grown through cellular agriculture. While the developmental stages of this new field are indeed taking place in academic and industry labs, scaled production will occur in food production facilities similar to much of our food supply today. As such, the term lab-grown is commonly used in the media today but will probably decrease with time as meat cultivation enters production and becomes more well-known.

Scientific terms

Cell-cultured and in-vitro meat are sometimes used in scientific contexts and academic publications, as this meat production method emerged from cell-culturing techniques common in the biomedical field. (Cultivated, cultured, and cell-based are also used in scientific contexts and academic publications.)

Marketing terms

Some groups have opted to highlight the potential benefits of the product in the name (clean, slaughter-free). In the future, you might see companies and advocacy groups using these terms as adjectives for marketing purposes.

Non-meat terms

Labels that do not use the word meat could present a risk to consumers who rely on clear labeling to avoid allergens. Some meat trade groups have suggested that the word “meat” should exclusively be used for meat produced through slaughter.

Package labeling

Governments will regulate the labeling of cultivated meat products for sale. In the US, the FDA and USDA will oversee appropriate labeling. However, we do not yet know details such as know which descriptive term (or phrase) will be used to indicate the product was grown from cells, or other potential requirements such as the type or species of cells.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

References

1- Andreas, N. J., Kampmann, B., & Le-Doare, K. M. (2015, November). Human breast milk: A review on its composition and bioactivity. Early Human Development, 91(11), 629-635.

2- Ben-Arye, T., Shandalov, Y., Ben-Shaul, S., Landau, S., Zagury, Y., Ianovici, I., Lavon, N., & Levenberg, S. (2020). Textured soy protein scaffolds enable the generation of three-dimensional bovine skeletal muscle tissue for cell-based meat. Nature Food, 1, 210-220.

3- Post, M. J., Levenberg, S., Kaplan, D. L., Genovese, N., Fu, J., Bryant, C. J., Negowetti, N., Verzijden, K., & Moutsatsu, P. (2020, July 16). Scientific, sustainability and regulatory challenges of cultured meat. Nature Food, 403-415.

4- Stout, A. J., Mirliani, A. B., Soule-Albridge, E. L., Cohen, J. M., & Kaplan, D. L. (2020, November). Engineering carotenoid production in mammalian cells for nutritionally enhanced cell-cultured foods. Metabolic Engineering, 62, 126-137.

5- Kelland, K. (2013, August 6). First taste of test-tube burger declared 'close to meat'. Reuters.

6- Carrington, D. (2018, December 14). World's first lab-grown steak revealed – but the taste needs work. The Guardian.

7- Shanker, D. (2019, October 22). These $50 chicken nuggets were grown in a lab. Bloomberg.

8- Holmes, O. (2020, December 4). I tried the world's first no-kill, lab-grown chicken burger. The Guardian.

9- Risner, D., Li, F., Fell, J. S., Pace, S. A., Siegel, J. B., Tagkopoulos, I., & Spang, E. S. (2020). Preliminary techno-economic assessment of animal cell-based meat. MDPI, 10(1).

10- Wenkert, A. (2018, March 26). Israeli rabbi says lab-grown pork meat is kosher. Ctech.

11- Kenigsberg, J. A., & Zivotofsky, A. Z. (2020, January 22). A Jewish religious perspective on cellular agriculture. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.

12- Sherpin, Y. (n.d.) Is the lab-created burger kosher? Chabad.org.

14- Hamdan, M. N., Post, M. J., Ramli, M. A., & Mustafa, A. R. (2017, April 29). Cultured meat in Islamic perspective. Journal of Religion and Health, 57, 2193-2206.

15- Department of Halal Certification EU. (n.d.). Islamic method of slaughtering.

16- Labadi, S. (2017, March 26). 'Clean meat': Is lab-grown chicken and duck halal? Salaam Gateway.

17- Billinghurst, T. (2013, May 2). Is 'shmeat' the answer? In vitro meat could be the future of food. Gulf News.

18- Szejda, K., and Urbanovich, T. (2019). Meat cultivation: Embracing the science of nature. The Good Food Institute.