A Chinese Biotech Startup Could Best Conventional Meat Prices by 2025

Leveraging 3D printing to make the meat appear more appetizing.
Ameya Paleja

A biotech startup in China recently showcased its lab-grown pork and is aiming for cost-parity with conventionally sourced pork by 2025, Reuters reported

Amidst growing concerns of emissions resulting from meat production, countries are looking for protein alternates that can feed their population while also being eco-friendly. Plant-based meats have been around for a while but need further development to stand in as replacements to animal meats. Cultured or lab-grown meats are sourced from animal cells and show a high resemblance to conventional meat but lack production at scale and are expensive to manufacture, making it difficult for consumers to switch. 

Shanghai-based biotech startup CellX believes it has the technical know-how to address the challenges facing lab-grown meat and is the first company to offer it in China. Making up 30 percent of the global demand, China is the largest consumer of meat with an annual consumption of 86 million tons, Reuters reported. Lab-grown meat holds the promise of a stable supply while also considerably reducing the carbon emissions from conventional production processes.

CellX's pork product contains cells sourced from China's native black pig. The cells are cultured in a growth medium on biological stents or scaffolds to aid their growth. According to its website, CellX is also using 3D printing to get the look of the portions right while also using food science to match the tastes with conventionally grown meats.

The company claims it has already managed a five-fold cost reduction in production and is aiming for a 10-fold by next year. Its growth medium still uses an animal serum which is not only a deviation from its mission of 'not consuming animals' but also a major contributor to the final cost. CellX plans to switch to a serum-free growth medium and using synthetic biology to source its growth factors which will help it reach cost parity with conventional meats by 2025. 

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The company was set up only a year ago and is now hopeful that regulation about lab-grown meat that is so far absent in China will help it further its research and development activities and the food security problems in China and beyond its borders. 

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