Cultivated meat refers to meat created using cell culture techniques within a laboratory or manufacturing facility. It is produced by growing master cells collected from cattle, chicken, pigs, fish, lamb, and other livestock. Cultivated meat is ethically produced, because livestock is not used within the manufacturing processes beyond collecting the initial cells required for cell culture.
Introduction to the Cultured Meat Market
Cultivated meat is a new category of food in which edible meat products can be created without the need for raising and slaughtering farm animals. Cultivated meat is composed of the same cell types found in animal tissues, primarily muscle fibers (myocytes) and fat (adipocytes), thus recreating the sensory and nutritional profiles of conventional animal meat. Common cell types used within the cultured meat market include MSCs, for their capacity to differentiate into structural tissues, and induced pluripotent stem cells, because of their flexible capacity to become any cell type.
The number of startups focused on developing cultured meat (and the required cell culture media, supplements, and methods to produce them) has been rising year after year. Today, this number has reached an impressive 99 companies worldwide, compared to only four in 2016. That represents a explosion of cultured meat companies (2,475% growth) in only six years.
Importantly, cultivated meat techniques can also be used to manufacture other ethically produced animal products, such as leather, lab-grown milk, and chicken-free egg whites, for example. In addition to milk from cows and goats, three companies are exploring mechanisms to manufacture human breast milk through cell-based techniques. If successful, this strategy could be highly disruptive to the newborn formula market that is currently valued at $6.7 billion.
While many terms are used to describe the burgeoning cultivated meat market, an analysis of nomenclature usage among the 99 cultured meat companies now in existence finds that:
- 45% of the companies use the term “cultivated”
- 24% of the companies use the term “cultured”
- 19% of the companies use the term “cell-based”
While “cultivated” is the most common term used globally, within the U.S. the industry trade group the Alliance For Meat, Poultry And Seafood Innovation (AMPS Innovation) recommends the use of the terms “cultured meat” or “cell-based meat” for its members.
Despite this, the media often uses the terms “clean meat”, “slaughter-free meat,” “lab grown meat”, and “ethically grown meat” as well. This is because the media prefers to focus on the ethical aspects of lab-grown meat production, rather than emphasizing its scientific nature.
Startups Composing the Cultivated Meat Market
Unsurprisingly, nearly all the companies involved in the manufacture of cultivated meat are startups. This is because the the first scientific publication about cultured meat did not appear until 2008. These startups are primarily located in the United States, EU, and Israel.
Startups within the cultivated meat market that have secured large funding amounts to advance their technologies include Memphis Meats, Mosa Meat, BlueNalu, Meatable, Future Meat, Shiok Meats, Cubiq Foods, Wild Type , Wild Earth, and Aleph Farms.
The largest investment of $178 million was made in Memphis Meats. Other companies that raised substantial amounts include Mosa Meat at $85 million, BlueNalu at $80 million, Meatable at $60 million, Future Meat at $43 million, Shiok Meats at $30 million, Cubiq Foods at $29 million, Wild Type at $16 million, Wild Earth at $23 million, and Aleph Farms at $117 million.
Billionaire investors that are supporting this nascent field include Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Li Ka-shing.
Of course, conventional meat companies like Cargill, Tyson Foods, Migros, PHW and Grimaud are also staking claims within the cultivated meat market through financial investments, as well as industry partnerships. Understandably, their goal is to hedge against the potential for the rapidly growing cultivated meat market to up-end their decade long dominance.