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This is a linkpost for GFI’s most recent report on trends in scaling cultivated meat.

As a student, I spent over 10 years studying human diseases and pandemics. I constantly asked myself: how can I increase my impact? My pharmaceuticals job felt unlikely to be the best answer. 

As I learned more about the cruelty in the meat, dairy and egg industries, I realized that we need technology to replace animal agriculture in addition to individuals choosing to go vegan and promoting veganism. We need to change the culture and educate individuals, but we also need to change the system.

As a cultivated meat senior scientist at GFI, I spent a lot of time last year conducting a survey to determine trends in cultivated meat production, identify challenges, and provide useful insights to investors, researchers, and suppliers.

Below are the selected key insights from the report.

  • The industry currently operates on a small scale, with most productions at the kilogram level. Many companies plan to scale up with large bioreactors in the next three years, enabling significantly larger annual production in the order of tons.
  • Companies are exploring various bioprocessing techniques and bioreactor designs for process optimization, including stirred-tank or air-lift bioreactors, fed-batch or continuous modes of operation, and strategies like recycling and filtration to reduce costs.
  • Some companies face knowledge gaps in regulatory affairs, signaling a need for collaboration with regulatory agencies to establish frameworks.
  • Cultivated meat companies are investigating diverse fit-for-purpose scaling strategies, bioreactors, and operational methods. Due to the specific requirements of each cell type and product, a universal bioprocess and scaling solution may not be feasible. Consequently, there’s a demand for additional techno-economic models and experimental data to fine-tune bioprocesses for each specific product type.




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Thank you! I remember looking into this a few years ago as due diligence for a new job. My impression at the time was that even if the requisite technological breakthroughs were developed (big if), they wouldn’t be able to proliferate and scale up to make cultivated meat more than 1% of global meat consumption by 2100, due to inherent physical limitations around contamination above the 10kL scale.

In your interviews, did you get a sense for how companies were planning to adapt to this, or is the general consensus that this limitation can be surpassed? I know Vow, for example, are just targeting high-end consumers with small production runs where they’ll be able to squeeze high margins out of it—but I still hear rhetoric about preventing climate change and solving world hunger from almost every player in the space. Is that just rhetoric for raising capital?

Hi there,
Contamination overall doesn't seem to be a major concern. There is no inherent physical limitation to control contamination above 10kL scale. This is commonly already done in pharma. With larger scales the only issue is that risk of contamination can cost a lot as a lot of material will have to be discarded. Overall the batch failure rate is low in pharma:

For cultivated meat the trick is to do so without relying on expensive Good Manufacturing Practices (i.e. high end and expensive clean rooms). 

There are other areas to improve that will reduce the risk of contamination. For instance, more automated or continuous processes reduce the risk of contamination. There is also ongoing research on peptides with antibiotic properties that will go away during purification or cooking. 

Another way to mitigate the contamination risk is to scale out instead of scale up. So use 10 x 10kL bioreactors instead of 1x100kL one. 

Overall, contamination risk does not seem to be a major risk. Bigger challenges are reducing the cost of media and bioreactors! 

Also you can watch my presentation. At 16:37 I share a personal story about running cell culture in office area! 

Hope this helps! 


Yes—my understanding was, as you note, that the right clean rooms are still orders of magnitude too expensive on a capital & ongoing basis to produce meat at consumer prices. The difference from the pharma industry is that they charge orders of magnitude more per volume of product, which can support this cost. I also understand that splitting reactors might not be a favourable clean trade-off either, since at the same volume, 10x1kL reactors take up more space (and therefore more clean room costs) & are more expensive to operate.

Reading your reply, is it correct that the major cultivated meat companies won’t be able to hit consumer pricing or scale anytime soon because of those major technological breakthroughs they need to achieve first?

For anyone interested in how to go from research to large-scale production, there recently was an article about that in Works in Progress: https://worksinprogress.co/issue/getting-materials-out-of-the-lab/

It will be very difficult for cultivated meat to scale in a world where 99% of people and 99.99% of politicians just stick their heads in the sand and pretend the current systems - with massive animal suffering, climate damage, antibiotic use and increasing land-use - is sustainable. 

Once we stop thinking of this as "can we make it work?" but as "we have to make this work!" we'll discover solutions. 

For example, regarding contamination (comments below), maybe the right approach is not to look for 0% risk of contamination, but to find the right sweet-spot, even if that means some batches need to be discarded. Remember that the correct comparison for this is not pharma, but rather factory farming, with animals often living in their own excrement and being pumped full of antibiotics to keep them "healthy", with terrible consequences not just for the animals but also for antibiotic resistance, which is now a major cause of human deaths. 

Yet, there are countries in the EU seeking to ban cultivated meat, or to stop it from being labelled "meat," as politicians bow to the power of the powerful agriculture sector. 

I don't have a solution (I wish!), but with elections coming up in so many countries, I wonder if there's an opportunity for many of us to ask politicians why they are not aggressively supporting and funding what is possibly the most important technological challenge the world is facing. 

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