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The 4-S’ of media sourcing for cultivated meat: Scale, Security, Sustainability and Specific

November 3, 2023
  • We’ve spoken to over 60 cultivated meat companies around the world about their barriers to scaling. A common trend is efficient media sourcing.
  • For cultivated meat to become an affordable, available choice to everyone, the formulations required for cellular agriculture must be delivered at scale, from a secure supply chain, with transparent sustainability data and industry-specific service.
  • This article covers the 4-S’ of media sourcing based on Multus’ expertise in sourcing and experience from working with cultivated meat companies on developing their supply chains. 

The last two years saw the frontier of cultivated meat moving from proof-of-concept to proof-of-scale. From a Singaporean Bistro to an American Atelier and Swedish meatballs, people worldwide are starting to experience cultivated meat.

However, there is still a long way to go until cultivated meat is affordable and accessible as a sustainable alternative. 

With new investments going towards alternative protein solutions, including cultivated meat, the key challenge for the industry becomes scale-up.

If cultivated meat is to reduce the environmental footprint of a trillion-dollar market, the industry would have to scale up its capacity enormously. 

The second challenge? Sourcing. Specifically, getting the required formulations delivered:

1. At scale

2. From a secure supply chain

3. With transparent sustainability data

4. As an industry-specific service

Scale, secure, sustainability and specific are the 4-S’ required for efficient and resilient media sourcing for cultivated meat.

Now, let’s dive into what each of those terms mean in practice… 

1. Scale

To produce 10% of the global meat supply, global bioreactor capacity needs to be around 300-500 times larger than it is today (McKinsey, 2021).

Current global bioreactor capacity is around 10-20 million litres, theoretically enough to produce a fraction of one day’s global meat consumption. 

However, this capacity is designed for the life science sector rather than the food industry.

Additionally, if the alternative protein industry is to meet 10% of global meat demand, it would require billions of litres of capacity. This is the “bioreactor capacity gap”. 

At the same time, there is a growth in demand for cell culture media, which needs to be qualitatively different to conventional media to meet cost, performance and scale requirements. 

This demand is driving innovations, such as:

  • Plant-based complex nutrient mixtures derived from side streams like grain husks, which have potential to deliver much lower costs at readily available scale. 
  • Proteins optimised for low-cost, large scale bioprocesses.
  • Food-safe formulations optimised by cell type for productivity and cell functionality.
  • Reconfigured supply chains, built to serve cultivated meat with efficiency and convenience. 

Simply put: a new and better feedstock supply chain is critical for cultivated meat to scale. 

For cultivated meat companies to effectively navigate this will require in-depth knowledge of market requirements and supplier capabilities. This includes:

  • Knowing how food-specific regulatory requirements of feedstock impact media formulations and how food-specific manufacturing standards impact supplier qualification and supply chain quality control.
  • Sourcing low-cost recombinant proteins optimised for large-scale bioprocesses, local nutrient feedstocks (which will vary by region) and appropriately certified processing capacity for media formulations.
  • Orchestrating the supply chain and ingredient moving parts to support the highly efficient performance of cultivated meat production facilities and businesses as they scale operationally and expand geographically. 

2. Security

The media supply chain requires tight control and risk mitigation to ensure proprietary formulations and other intellectual properties are not disclosed and to avoid single points of failure.

Traditional strategies apply, like non-disclosure, dual sourcing and sourcing different fractions from different sources.

Ensuring ongoing security of supply will require consistent attention and proactive work, particularly where market dynamics - for example, growing competition for supply capacity - change the environment around a particular supply chain.

3. Sustainability

As a sector which has raised significant investment on its potential to support a more sustainable food system, cultivated meat companies will need to perform life cycle analyses (LCA) at every stage of scale-up, to produce data that backs up the claims. LCA’s are used to assess the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product, process, or service (EPA, 2023). This can include resource intensity (land, water, energy) and greenhouse gas emissions along the supply chain.

So far in the industry, commercial scale LCAs have been hypothetical, based on wide-ranging assumptions. For this reason, the results have been equally broad, from severely critical to strongly supportive. With a growing number of companies now building large-scale facilities (including Believer Meats, Upside Foods, Aleph Farms and Mosa Meat), more objective data will start to emerge in the next 3-5 years. 

Regarding cell culture media, companies will need granular and evidence-backed data on the same factors, with a level of transparency that hasn’t been the norm for the traditional life science supply chain.

4. Specific

Cultivated meat companies will need industry-specific expertise from their suppliers. 

What’s clear, is that the existing supply chain for media and ingredients doesn’t simply plug-and-play in the distinctive dynamics of cellular agriculture.

These dynamics include: 

  • Regulatory developments within and between jurisdictions, as standards and approval pathways emerge and evolve.
  • New end-product developments in cultivated meat companies, which will drive new demands of media R&D to optimise further for efficiency, productivity and functionality.
  • Enormous demands being placed on the feedstock supply chain as meat production scales, challenging predictability and price.
  • Long-term planning to align investment and development projects between supply chain partners and mitigate the risk of expensive bottlenecks and delays.

How is Multus supporting cultivated meat companies in developing supply chains?  

Multus works with cultivated meat companies on media R&D and sourcing from lab to commercial scale, enabling them to focus on their core business - producing sustainable food.

When it comes to sourcing, we:

  • Find, qualify and collaborate with suppliers to expand the scale and diversity of ingredients available to the industry, which helps our customers focus on their differentiators and become end-product market leaders.
  • Do fundamental research into ingredient safety and work with regulators to help establish and understand the impacts of regulatory frameworks for cultivated meat media.
  • Supply companies globally and acquire a deep understanding of how media development and sourcing fit into the strategy and plans of a cultivated meat business, from start-up to scale-up.
  • Stake our business on delivering sourcing solutions that are secure regarding IP, supply and compliance.

If you’d like to speak with our team about your plans for developing your supply chain, send us an e-mail to


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