If you could get 12 cultivated meat burgers for the same price as 12 beef burgers in the supermarket, would you make the switch?
At Tesco you can get 12 beef burgers for £6.70 - 56p a unit. The first cultivated meat burger cost £275,000. Today, to produce a single cultivated meat burger will set you back £7.50. While the decrease in cost of cultivated meat is amazing news, the discrepancy in cost between "ethical meat" and grass fed beef is still incredibly stark and reinforces that in the current climate: if you want to live ethically you need to pay a premium.
In the same way that offsetting your carbon footprint with carbon credits or ditching your commute to work from home requires a certain level of privilege at the minute so does buying food that's ethically sourced, sustainable and good for you.
But why is that the case?
For one meat can be produced really cheaply but more importantly it's because the materials required to grow a single cell into the right kind of meat cells is expensive. Really expensive.
Inside your body and the bodies of all animals signalling chemicals called growth factors are made, released and moved around the body to make sure that organs, tissues and cells form in the right places and are able to do their jobs. To turn a single cell into muscle tissue you need to replicate the process these cells would undergo in the body so you need these growth factors which on their own make up 55-95% of the cost of growing meat. These growth factors cost millions of pounds per gram but it doesn't necessarily have to be like that.
Growth factors aren't the only proteins we manufacture to do our work for us. Enzymes in bio-active washing powder, like growth factors, are proteins and they're made in bulk at a cost of less than ten pennies per gram. The reason this is achievable is because of the size of the industry - generating proteins using cellular agriculture is far cheaper once you have covered set up costs.
So as cultivated meat becomes more widely accepted and growth factors can be produced at scale the process of manufacturing them won't need to be as expensive as it currently is and in turn cultivated meat should become more readily available.
Hopefully the work being done to bring down the cost of manufacturing cultivated meat will be passed on to the consumer and one day cultivated meat will be as accessible to the public as the meat which currently lines our supermarket aisles.
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Consumers, producers, and governments increasingly recognise the need to move away from animal products and the benefits of investing in alternative proteins.Read more →