Neil is a senior staff researcher at Rethink Priorities.

He holds a PhD in Political & Social Science at the European University Institute, an MPhil in European Politics & Society from the University of Oxford and a BA in International Relations from Dublin City University.

He has volunteered for Charity Entrepreneurship & Animal Charity Evaluators. Before joining Rethink Priorities, he was a political data manager for WeVoteUSA while it participated in Fast Forward's accelerator for tech nonprofits, held numerous research assistant positions at the University of Oxford, and acted as Strategy Associate for a behavioural science think tank, The Decision Lab.

Wiki Contributions


Linch's Shortform

For those interested, here are the paragraphs that added new information on the CE Delft TEA that I hadn't considered or seen in other TEAs or reviews.

Cell growth

"For bacteria, one may generally subculture in the range of 1:10 to 1:100, depending on the bacterium. For stem cells, which are more fastidious, the highest subculture ratio (i.e. the amount of an old culture one uses to seed or start a new culture) is typically 1:5. This is significantly less than the 1:200 cell ratio that is proposed in the TEA. Experience dictates that if stem cells are sub-cultured at the ratio proposed, they will either differentiate and stop growing, or simply will die. "

Medium costs

"In an analysis of culture medium costs, Specht (2019) used DMEM/F12 medium as a base, with a cost of $62,400 for a 20,000 L batch (or $3.12/L). However, this appears to be the cost for powdered bulk medium (from, e.g., MP Bio), and does not include the cost for labour, USP water, formulation, filtration and testing prior to culture. Given the fact that up to now stem cells require custom media, the price for base medium alone could rise to $822,000 for the same sized (20,000 L)batch. However, it should be noted that a properly developed medium may rely less on growth factor additives" This is also used by Risner, et al (2020) in their "this is where the miracle happens" Scenario 4.

"insulin costs will likely remain as they are due to current and future manufacturing standards and volumes. "


"The building will require air locks with increasing air handling quality, for both materials and personnel. Typically this comprises a Class D corridor, with Class C rooms except where open phase is carried out, which must be Class A in a Class B environment with Class C minimal changing rooms. The TEA document does not take into account this quality standard, nor does it take into account the additional personnel time"


“Cell pastes or slurries are notoriously unstable and will deteriorate very quickly,losing their cellular structure. Real meat on the other hand is built on a scaffold of blood vessels, interdigitating cell structure and layers of connective tissues,tendons etc., that helps to maintain structure. Even ground meat will maintain some of this structure at the macro level, and is seldom if ever homogenized to a single cell slurry. Given the large yields of CCP [Cell Cultured Product], a process must be devised to ensure that the slurry maintains its structure.”

Monoclonal antibodies

"In summary, Monoclonal antibody yields have seen a 10- to 20-fold increase in the last 10 to 15 years, with 10s of billions of dollars of investment in R&D across multiple industries. In the TEA example, it is proposed that costs will be reduced, with a resulting >1000-fold decrease in costs. Given the experience with monoclonal antibodies, this may be overly ambitious and does not take into account the fact that every cell bank will be different – it is possible that each one will need to be developed independently."

Batch times

"In this instance, the TEA authors had proposed a 10-day perfusion culture that would use 800 L of media for each 2,000 L of product. . . . For such a short perfusion time, normally the process would be better suited to a high-density fed-batch process (10-12 d). Perfusion generally is reserved for longer-term cultures (20-35 d or more, Bausch et al., 2019)"


"Large scale bioreactors (>2,000 L) will remain custom built items for the foreseeable future, and thus will be expensive to build and install.Cost savings initiated through process and genetic engineering to increase yields, cell line development . . . is likely not an option for a multitude of regulatory and social reasons"

Capital costs

"The Capital costs appear to only take into account the myocyte cell manufacturing process. Further, a multiplier of tank capital costs is used to extrapolate to the total capital, rather than drawing a concept design and estimating surface area and cost to within a certain margin of error . . . Clearly the capital costs are greater than those estimated by the authors in theTEA, with apparently only a small fraction of the equipment and infrastructure accounted for. It is unclear how the ‘Social Investment Criteria’ would work in this situation, as a factory of this size and complexity will cost several hundreds of millions of dollars to build. Due to the complexity of the manufacturing processes, the requirement to remain as an aseptic process, commissioning and validating the plant, even to food grade requirements, could also cost in the millions of dollars, depending on the final product profile. Generally, these costs would be put against the products coming from the factory over a 10-year depreciation period."

Personnel costs

"Personnel costs are estimated as $100,000/annum/per FTE in the TEA, fullyloaded. This is likely an under-estimate for the operators in the aseptic areas, as staff experienced in the operation, validation and trouble-shooting of complex bioreactor and down stream process processes would be required. This estimate could be increased to $150,000 and even that may be on the low end depending on where the factory is to be located. "

There are a bunch of other critiques are basically arguing "this is expensive and nobody will fund it", but that’s just an intuition, not a hard technical stop.

Here's the layout provided. I'd love to see more of these, like the one WildType provides here

Cultured meat: A comparison of techno-economic analyses

Thanks for sharing your perspective.

The prediction "it is only a matter of time" has an effect on how to allocate EA resources depending on how long that matter of time is, even with additional resources going towards it, so I'd be curious what time period you'd assign for this and how you came to think that.

Even without having to construct brains, eyes, ears, tails, feathers, Humbird thinks it will still be very expensive at the moment since creating the immune system is so hard to create- so you need pharma grade standards with are expensive (one can disagree with this assumption or think eventually it won't be true, as CE Delft do, but I'd be interested in clearer reasoning as to why one thinks it's likely)

I'm not sure why you assume the production unit for animal-based meat consumes 50% of resources for its construction (growth)?

Cultured meat predictions were overly optimistic

I don't think it's reasonably likely this particular prediction was delayed by COVID-19, given they made this prediction in early 2019 about a product being on offer *in 2019*. I don't think there is much to suggest any impediments to a  product roll-out in 2019  from the pandemic since it only started having major impacts/reactions in 2020. 

For other predictions in this dataset made by companies, research institutes, and reported in the media it seems likely the pandemic threw up an unexpected obstacle and delay. However, that would presumably also be true for whatever other tools or sources we might alternatively rely on for cultured meat timelines and so I don't think it changes the overall conclusion on how much stock to put into the types of predictions/predictors represented in this dataset.


Cultured meat predictions were overly optimistic

My colleague Linch asked me “to include a random sample of 9 predictions that resolved negatively.” I numbered the incorrect market/supermarket predictions and then randomised the list of numbers, and used an online random number generator to select nine numbers.

  • March 2019 "JUST, the San Francisco-based company racing to be the first to bring cell-based meat to market, announced in a CBS San Francisco interview last month that they would debut their first product — a cultured chicken nugget — in Asia sometime this year"
  • February 2018 "Tetrick claims his startup has finally made the process cost-effective enough to take to market: At the end of this year, he says, Just will officially introduce an as yet undisclosed lab-grown meat, the first time the stuff will hit shelves.”
  • March 2018 "Memphis Meats is trying to bring its products to high-end restaurant menus by next year, and, by 2021, bring production costs down to equal grocery store meat products at $3 to $4 per pound."
  • December 2018 "The steak product is expected to be ready to sell within two years." - Aleph Farms
  • January 2018 "It [Supermeat] reckons it is still up to three years away from putting SuperMeat products on supermarket shelves."
  • ACE reported that in February 2017 Mark Post predicted “​​For small-scale, somewhat expensive products, most companies will have cultured meat products on the market in 3–4 years (i.e., 2020–2021). It will probably take another 3–4 years (i.e., 2023–2025) for the price to come down to the level where it’s acceptable for the broader public.”
  • June 2006 Scientist Paul Kosnik: "We believe the goal of a processed meat product is attainable in the next five years if funding is available and the R&D is pursued aggressively."
  • January 2016 (no hyperlink was given in the MotherJones article but they credit GFI as the source and you can see it copy-pasted into at least two media articles on Google Search) ”Memphis Meats is already growing real meat in small quantities using cells from cows, pigs, and chickens. The company’s first products—hot dogs, sausages, burgers, and meatballs—will be developed using recipes perfected over a half century by award-winning chefs. The founders expect to have products to market within five years.”
  • August 2009 Jason Matheny of New Harvest said “We think that a technology to produce cultured ground meats -- burgers, sausages, nuggets, and so forth -- could be commercialized within ten years,"
Cultured meat predictions were overly optimistic

I don't think Anders Sandberg uses the EA Forum, so I'll just repost what Anders wrote in reaction to this on Twitter:

"I suspect we have a "publication bias" of tech predictions where the pessimists don't make predictions (think the tech impossible or irrelevant, hence don't respond to queries, or find their long timescales so uncertain they are loath to state them).

In this case it is fairly clear that progress is being made but it is slower than hoped for: predictions as a whole made a rate mistake, but perhaps not an eventual outcome mistake (we will see). I think this is is[sic] a case of Amara’s law.

Amara’s law (that we overestimate the magnitude of short-term change and underestimate long-term change) can be explained by exponential-blindness, but also hype cycles, and integrating a technology in society is a slow process"

Fwiw, I broadly agree. I think those in the industry making public predictions have plausibly "good" reasons to skew optimistic. Attracting the funding, media attention, talent necessary to make progress might simply require generating buzz and optimism- even if the progress it generates is at a slower rate that implied by their public predictions. So it would actually be odd if overall the majority of predictions by these actors don't resolve negatively and overly optimistic (they aren't trying to rank high on the Metaculus leaderboard). 

So those who are shocked by the results presented here may have cause to update and put less weight on predictions from cultured media companies and the media repeating them, and rely on something else. For those who aren't surprised by these results, then they probably already placed an appropriate weight on how seriously to take public predictions from the industry.

On how this industry's predictions compare to others', I too would like to see that and identify  the right reference class(es).


An End to Cages in Europe?

As some examples, Open Wing Alliance, Compassion in World Farming, Humane Society International/Europe (HSI), and Animal Protection Denmark (Dyrenes Beskyttelse) have already submitted comments to this feedback period.

For the subsequent public consultation process I would again highlight that Alice DiConcetto, of Animal Law Europe recently published a short manual on how to submit feedback to an EU Public Consultation that I think will be valuable for advocates. IMO, feedback will be more impactful if it sends a consistent message but avoids sending duplicate submissions which the EU civil servants will just batch together as such.

Also worth flagging that the Commission included in its inception impact assessment two options for Animal welfare at the time of killing considering farmed fish (page 7 of the downloadable doc).

"Option 1: In the light of new scientific evidence, add species-specific provisions for the killing of the five main species of farmed fish (Atlantic salmon, common carp, rainbow trout, European sea bass and gilthead sea bream), and review current requirements which cannot be applied to farmed fish (such as individual monitoring and certain definitions) to better ensure the welfare of those species.

Option 2: In the light of new scientific evidence, add species-specific provisions for the killing of European sea bass and gilthead sea bream and review current requirements which cannot be applied to farmed fish (such as individual monitoring and certain definitions) to better ensure the welfare of those species."

And on Animal welfare at the farm level noted (page 6) considering "New species-specific animal welfare requirements on dairy cows (and possibly on rabbits, pullets, layer breeders, broiler breeders and day-old chicks ) and with empowerments for the Commission to adopt at a later stage further, detailed rules on additional species – such as farmed fish – based on scientific evidence as it progressively becomes available." This also mirrors recent comments by Commissioner Kyriakides in which she said "we cannot solve every issue by the end of 2023 . .. it is not possible to have updated EFSA opinions for all relevant species, so we must prioritise while paving the way for future actions. This is why when revising the legislation the Commission intends to propose empowerments allowing specific welfare requirements to be introduced to certain species at a later stage . . . we intend to agree a mandate with EFSA for future reports, . . . , allowing us to lay down rules at a later stage, should co-legislators grant us the relevant empowerments".

A bunch of reasons why you might have low energy (or other vague health problems) and what to do about it

I'm no expert, and appreciate the honest epistemic status, but I quickly asked an IBS R.D. who said:

"like irritable bowel disease, which is much worse"
->It’s inflammatory bowel disease not irritable. There’s irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. There’s is no irritable bowel disease.

"there’s not that much you can do to diagnose it"
->IBS is diagnosed based off the Rome IV diagnostic criteria

Three charitable recommendations for COVID-19 in India

Did you consider advocacy, as mentioned in a recent Future Perfect piece (talking about vaccine supply generally, not specific to India):

" Arguably, donors could have a bigger impact by donating to an advocacy group than by donating to Go Give One, though this field is so new that it’s hard to know for sure.

For donors who prefer to invest in advocacy, Dodson and Glassman both recommended three groups: Global Citizen, the ONE Campaign, and the Pandemic Action Network.

“To the extent that advocacy movements help reduce the political cost of doing the right thing and create political benefits, I think it’s a good thing,” Glassman said. “And the amounts of money at stake that they could potentially influence are large, especially in the United States.” "

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