Food and Water

What is cultured meat and how is it made?

Two pieces of meat.

Cultured foods are expected to reinvent the global food system. Image: Unsplash/Kyle Mackie

Katie Jones
Writer, Visual Capitalist
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Food and Water?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Food Security is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Food Security

  • Cultured meat is a genuine animal meat product created by cultivating animal cells in a controlled lab environment.
  • Lab-grown meat almost entirely eliminates the need to farm animals for food.
  • But the market faces hurdles such as price parity and consumer acceptance.
A visual guide to the science behind cultured meat.
Image: Cult Food Science

A visual guide to the science behind cultured meat

Cultured foods—also known as cell-based foods—are expected to turn our global food system as we know it on its head.

In fact, the cultured meat market is estimated to reach an eye-watering $25 billion by 2030 according to McKinsey, but only if it can overcome hurdles such as price parity and consumer acceptance. To do so, significant innovation in the science behind these products will be crucial for the industry’s growth.

In the graphic above, we provide a visual overview of some of the technologies behind the creation of cultured meat products.

What is cultured meat?

To start, cultured meat is defined as a genuine animal meat product that is created by cultivating animal cells in a controlled lab environment—eliminating the need to farm animals for food almost entirely.

“Cultured meat has all the same fat, muscles, and tendons as any animal…All this can be done with little or no greenhouse gas emissions, aside from the electricity you need to power the land where the process is done.”

Bill Gates

Because cultured meat is made of the same cell types and structure found in animal tissue, the sensory and nutritional profiles are like-for-like. Let’s dive into how these products are made.

The science and technology behind cultured meat

The main challenge facing the cultured meat market is producing products at scale. But thanks to the vast amount of research in the stem cell biology space, the science behind cultured foods is not entirely new.

Given that we are in the very early days of applying these learnings to producing food products, those looking to invest in companies contributing to the industry’s growth stand to benefit. Here is an overview of some of the technologies that underpin the industry that you should know:

1. Bioprocess design

This is the process of using living cells and their components to create new products. According to experts like the Good Food Institute, bioprocess design holds the key to unlocking cultured meat production at scale.

Specifically, innovation in bioreactor (where the cells grow) design represents a massive opportunity for companies and investors alike.

2. Tissue engineering

Tissue engineering techniques are used to produce cultured meat that resembles real meat textures and flavors. The first step is taking tissue from the animal for the purpose of extracting stem cells and creating cell lines.

The extracted stem cell lines are then cultivated in a nutrient rich environment, mimicking in-animal tissue growth and producing muscle fibers inside a bioreactor. The muscle fibers are processed and mixed with additional fats and ingredients to assemble the finished meat product.

3. Cell lines

Cell lines refer to the different types of cells that can be propagated repeatedly and sometimes indefinitely.

Access to cell lines is a major challenge facing the industry today and is an area that requires significantly more research. This is because there is not just one cell type that can be used in cellular agriculture to produce cultured food products.

4. Cell culture media

Cells (or cell cultures) require very specific environmental conditions. Cell culture media is a gel or liquid that contains the nutrients needed to support growth outside of the body.

More research in this space is needed to determine optimized formulations and make these products more affordable.

Have you read?

5. Scaffolding

Scaffolds are 3D cell culture platforms that mimic the structure of complex biological tissues, such as skeletal muscle. This platforms can be created through the use of 3D Bioprinting.

Scaffolds are predominantly made up of collagen and gelatin. The problem is these are both animal-derived ingredients which defeats the purpose of cell-based products. Therefore, more sustainable plant-derived options are also being explored.

Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Food and WaterIndustries in DepthManufacturing and Value Chains
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Regenerative food systems can change the story of how agriculture impacts climate change

Tania Strauss and Jim Andrew

June 20, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum