Cultivated meat

An introduction to cultivated meat: what it is, why we need it, and how we can advance it.

Credit: SuperMeat

What is cultivated meat?

Cultivated meat is exactly the same as the beef, pork, chicken, and seafood people enjoy eating today, but grown directly from animal cells instead of farming animals.

Why do we need cultivated meat?

Compared with conventional meat production, cultivated meat has the potential to be far less resource-intensive, decreasing methane emissions, deforestation, biodiversity loss, water use, water pollution, antibiotic resistance, and foodborne illnesses.

A study by CE Delft—the first ever to be based on data from cultivated meat companies—found that, compared with farming animals, cultivating meat from cells could:

  • Cut the climate impact of meat by up to 92%.
  • Reduce air pollution by up to 94%.
  • Use up to 90% less land.

This is compared to an ambitious scenario for conventional animal agriculture in 2030 where farmers manage to cut the carbon footprint of meat by 15% (for beef), 26% (for pork), and 53% (for chicken). Compared with current average environmental impacts, the benefits of cultivated meat are even greater, and if we use the freed-up land for rewilding or carbon sequestration, the positive climate impacts could be even more impressive.

Cultivated meat is also made in clean environments without animals or exposure to fecal pathogens, and no antibiotics are needed, so these foods help reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases, prevent foodborne illnesses, and preserve life-saving antibiotics for human medicine.

Cultivated meat will expand the options available to consumers, providing the meat so many people desire, just produced in a more sustainable, secure, and just way.

How is cultivated meat made?

Cultivating meat is similar to growing plants from cuttings in a greenhouse, which provides warmth, fertile soil, water, and nutrients. This new method of meat production enables the natural process of cell growth but in a more efficient environment.

Cellular agriculture involves taking a small, harmless sample of cells from an animal and growing them in what is known as a cultivator. The cultivator facilitates the same biological process that happens inside an animal by providing the cells with the warmth and the basic nutrients needed to transform into meat: water, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. The result is an abundance of cultivated meat, identical to conventionally produced meat at the cellular level, but made in a more sustainable way.

When will cultivated meat be available in Israel?

On 2 December 2020, Singapore became the first country in the world to approve cultivated meat for sale, followed by the United States in June 2023. In January 2024, Aleph Farms received regulatory approval in Israel for its beef cuts, making it the first regulatory approval for a cultivated product in Israel and the first in the world to approve cultivated beef.

This groundbreaking achievement marks the world’s first regulatory nod for cultivated beef and signals a significant leap forward in our journey toward a safer, more sustainable food ecosystem. While initially, these innovative food products may have limited availability and affordability, this approval sets the stage for further advancements. With continued development, these products will become more scalable, eventually offering consumers an affordable, safe, and environmentally friendly choice.

How can we advance cultivated meat in Israel?

The world’s first cultivated beef burger was unveiled in London in 2013. Since then, startups across Israel have made incredible progress in developing cultivated meat, but it will take government investment to truly transform meat production and maximize the societal benefits of cultivated meat.

Public sector investment in open-access research can address foundational issues and support the growth of a whole sector rather than just one company. Just like they fund research and development into green energy, governments interested in building a sustainable food system should fund open-access research into plant-based and cultivated meat and other alternative proteins.

Research by CE Delft shows that by 2030, cultivated meat’s production costs could fall to just €5.73/£4.80 per kg. To achieve this, both the public and private sectors will need to invest significant sums into research and development to overcome existing challenges—and CE Delft’s research shows that enhancing taste, reducing prices, and delivering key infrastructure will be crucial.

Credit: Aleph Farms

The science of cultivated meat

Learn more about the science and technology behind cultivated meat and the gaps where more research is needed to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, secure, and just food system.

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