By food futurist, Tony Hunter
The 2013 tasting of the first cultivated meat hamburger ushered in the start of the race to commercialise this new technology. Based on producing meat by cultivating animal cells in giant fermentation vessels it’s been on a slow burn for nearly a decade.
As the first decade closes out the next 2-3 years will be the most interesting years for cultivated meat development. That’s because we’ll see so many pilot plants become operational, including from BlueNalu, Mosa Meat, Future Meat Technologies and Eat Just, Inc. This is important because these plants will provide the hard data needed to predict costs and scale up production processes. One of these companies, Ivy Farm, plans to produce 12,000 tonnes per annum of cultivated meat by 2025, now that’s getting serious! Add to this that they claim it’ll be only 25% more expensive than premium conventional product (plant-based can run at over 200% more expensive) and that’s a pretty competitive starting point for a new technology product.
All these companies plan to sell to the public so its regulation and consumer acceptance will be the limiting factors. Recent research in the UK and US by Arizona State University, University of Bath, and Crafton Hills College shows up to 80% willingness to try cultivated meat so that’s looking promising. Importantly these commercial releases will increase consumer familiarity with the product, which will help foster consumer acceptance.
It’s therefore regulation that will be the key bottleneck, with Singapore throwing down the gauntlet having approved commercial sale of Eat Just’s chicken nugget last year. Which country will be next?
Some would ask why we need this technology at all? Well, putting aside GHG gas and energy arguments, there’s simply not enough land or water on the planet to feed everyone in 2050 the way we eat in countries like New Zealand, Australia, the US, and the EU. It’s almost certain that cultivated meat will use 40 – 95% less land and water than conventional animal agriculture so it’ll help solve these problems. Without technologies like this sustainably and equitably feeding the global population will be impossible.
Tony Hunter is a global futurist, food scientist, speaker and foresight strategy consultant. He consults and speaks globally, using his distinctive combination of scientific qualifications, business experience and detailed understanding of exponential food technologies to deliver a unique perspective on the future of food.