Global Perspectives on Cultivated Meat: A Revolution in Sustainable Food Production

Tanmay Mondal1 and Gurpreet Singh2

1 Assistant Professor, 2 Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary Physiology and

Biochemistry, College of Veterinary Science, Rampura Phul

Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University

In 2050, as the global population approaches 10 billion, the existing food system grapples with unprecedented challenges to meet the rising demand. Cultivated meat, produced in facilities without the need for traditional animal rearing, emerges as a transformative solution, replicating the taste, texture, and structure of conventional meat. Recent groundbreaking developments by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) granting approval for the sale of cell-cultivated chicken mark a pivotal moment in food technology. This monumental decision, awarded to Bay Area-based companies Good Meat and Upside Foods, not only paves the way for a new category of food in the U.S. but also has the potential to instigate a global shift in how we approach and consume meat. The data supporting cultivated meat is compelling, revealing significant environmental advantages, such as utilizing 95% less land, 78% less water, and causing 92% less global warming compared to traditional meat production. As the world grapples with the impending challenges of feeding a burgeoning population, the approval of cell-cultivated chicken sets the stage for a sustainable and innovative future in the global food industry.

Global Recognition: While Singapore was the first country to embrace cultivated meat, approving Good Meat’s products in 2020, the U.S. regulatory approval carries significant weight due to the country’s size and influence. This milestone is expected to encourage other nations and companies to explore and introduce similar products. Maarten Bosch, CEO of Mosa Meats, a Netherlands-based pioneer in cellular agriculture, sees this as an exciting development for the global ecosystem, predicting increased regulatory action in Asia and North America. Singapore, having previously led the way in approving lab-grown chicken products, now hosts a restaurant called 1880, featuring a multi-course dinner that includes lab-grown chicken from various countries. This marks the first-time lab-grown meat has received regulatory approval for commercial sale, setting the stage for further advancements in the global food landscape.

How Lab-Grown Meat Is Made: Lab-grown meat, also called cultured or cell-based goes through a careful step-by-step process. First, a tiny bit of animal cells is collected, usually from muscle tissue, using gentle biopsy methods. These specific cells, like muscle stem cells, are then isolated. Next, these cells are put in a controlled environment filled with nutrients and other things they need to grow. They start multiplying rapidly in a stage called proliferation. After that, a crucial step called differentiation happens, where the cells transform into specific types needed for muscle tissue, creating a structure similar to real meat. If a 3D structure is desired, cells might be placed on scaffolds, which act like frameworks. The cells then mature into a tissue that resembles natural meat. Sometimes, mechanical or electrical stimulation is used to help this development. Once the lab-grown meat reaches the right size and maturity, it gets harvested. This can include removing cells from scaffolds if they were used. The harvested tissue then goes through processing to improve its texture, flavour, and other meat-like qualities. It might involve adding things like fat cells.

Before reaching consumers, rigorous quality control checks are done to make sure the lab-grown meat is safe, tasty, and meets nutritional standards. This process offers a promising solution to traditional farming concerns, providing a more sustainable and ethical way to produce meat.

Figure: 1 The Step-by-Step Process of Cultivated Meat Production – From Cell Sourcing to Quality Control

India’s Path to Sustainable Protein: Embracing Innovation in the Alternative Meat Landscape: India, with its agricultural biodiversity, is poised to play a crucial role in the alternative protein sector. The country faces challenges like malnutrition, with 34% of children stunted and 189.2 million people undernourished. However, India needs to catch up with the global race in developing alternative proteins. Government support, the development of relevant university courses, and collaboration between research centers and biopharma companies are essential steps.

Figure: 2 Lab-Grown Meat

Lab-grown meat is currently more expensive than traditional meat, but ongoing research aims to make it more economically competitive. Additionally, cultural and social factors may influence the acceptance of alternative proteins. In India, the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and the National Research Centre on Meat (NCRM) are partnering to produce ‘ahimsa meat’ or slaughter-free meat, using stem cells. The efforts align with a government push to develop lab-grown meat by 2025.

The global cultured meat industry has seen rapid growth, with over 40 companies working on developing these products. India, at a budding stage in the alternative meat market, holds potential for growth, with the need for aligning products with local tastes, overcoming regulatory hurdles, and ensuring affordability. As the world grapples with feeding a growing population sustainably, alternative proteins, including lab-grown emerge as transformative solutions. The dialogue around cultured meat is gaining momentum globally, and it is time for India to actively participate in this revolution for a more secure, sustainable, and just food system.

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