Plant-based meat is growing rapidly, but with the advent of cultured meat, meat will become more competitive.
More and more consumers are embracing plant-based foods and the idea that consuming fewer animal-based products will improve their health and the health of the environment. According to SPINS data commissioned by the Plant-based Foods Association and the SPINS Institute, retail sales of plant-based foods in the US rose 27 percent to $7 billion in 2020.
Plant-based meats are the second largest segment of the plant-based food market after plant-based dairy products, with sales growing 45 percent to reach $1.4 billion in 2020. Plant-based meat sales are growing twice as fast as conventional meat sales and account for 2.7 per cent of packaged meat retail sales. To be more specific, sales of refrigerated plant meat grew by 75% in 2020, and sales of frozen plant meat grew by 30%.
It's clear that plant-based meats will take up more and more retail space in the refrigerated and frozen food space in the coming years as ingredient suppliers and manufacturers continue to innovate; At the same time, food technological innovation and consumer tastes are accelerating.
As more and more consumers look for alternatives to meat, plant-based meat has gone mainstream, while cell-grown meat is gaining ground.
What is cultured meat?
Cultured meat is meat grown in a laboratory. Cells were isolated from animals and these cells were grown into tissue. While this may sound like science fiction, reality exists. Aleph Farms, based in Israel, for example, has successfully grown thin-cut steaks from non-GM cells isolated from healthy cattle. According to co-founder and CEO Toubia, cultured meat has the sensory texture, flavor and fatty pattern of a traditional steak, contains the same amino acids and volatile compounds as plant-based alternatives, and the same enzyme reactions occur during cooking.
It will be able to expand its product portfolio to include alternative meat products grown from cells of various animals. The company has even developed a platform that can produce meat cuts of any size through a process called 3D bioprinting. Although cells are extracted from animals, they do not need to be collected from animals repeatedly. Aleph, for example, creates frozen cell banks from single cell isolates as a source of thousands of tons of meat each year.
The dilemma of growing meat
But cultured meat still has a long way to go before it's on our dinner tables. Because the biggest obstacle to growing meat is cost; Then there are issues of regulation and consumer trust.
Cost: This is because the meat's main source of the cost of production is the growth medium, costs about $400 per liter, in this context, a traditional bioreactor need up to 600 litres to produce 1 kg of meat, this is not called "meat" of, still need through the use of biological scaffold or 3 d printing technology makes the cells to form the organizational structure of the meat, Only by further reducing the taste and texture of meat through food science can it become a real "meat product". In this way, the cost is naturally very high, which has become the biggest obstacle to the development of many cell culture meat enterprises.
Aleph says the company is now scaling up with a pilot plant in Israel called BioFarm. The company plans to complete the pilot plant in 2022 and launch its first product, thin-cut steak, in the same year. It is also actively working on regulatory approvals and building up its supply chain.
Disadvantages of the meat industry: energy consumption
Several other problems remain, the biggest of which is energy consumption. It is reported that some industry experts believe that energy is indeed a major problem facing the whole cultured meat industry. The cost of electricity to run a non-farmed meat facility, for example, could make the industry's greenhouse-gas impact on the environment quite significant, even worse than conventional ones.
According to the IDTechEx researchers, the main greenhouse gas produced by livestock farming is methane, which is more damaging than carbon dioxide, but remains in the atmosphere for about nine years; The carbon dioxide released by the meat-growing equipment will have a lifetime in the atmosphere of more than 100 years. This means that even if facilities to grow meat are better in the short term, they could be more destructive in the long run. So, before cultured meat can be described as climate-friendly, a full shift to clean and renewable energy will probably be needed.
However, a complete lifecycle analysis is not yet possible because there is no commercial plant operating on a large scale. Cultured meat companies certainly claim it's better for the environment, the company says. Greenhouse gases aside, cultured meat production is likely to use less water, antibiotics and farmland than conventional farming, so there are clear environmental benefits in this regard.
At present, due to technical and talent barriers, there are not many companies doing cell culture meat in China. CellX is one of the first Chinese companies to enter the track of cell culture meat. The company has completed angel round financing of tens of millions of yuan in early 2021, which is mainly used for continuous product research and development. This is CellX's second round of financing in half a year, following a seed round of millions of yuan last year. It is understood that the team has reduced the cost by 5 times, and plans to reduce it by another 10 times by 2022, and achieve the same price as animal meat by 2025.