How cultivated meat can solve the problems of animal-sourced meat

SuperMeat speaks with Interesting Engineering about the future of animal agriculture and the role of cultivated meat or lab-grown meat.
Ameya Paleja
Cultivated turkey meat sandwich
Cultivated turkey meat sandwich.


  • Cultivated meat is not generally considered an alternative protein. Instead, it is animal meat sourced in a new way.
  • By 2030, 40 percent of globally consumed meat will be chicken.
  • With the same nutritional profile as conventional meats, cultivated meat is set to make big changes to animal agriculture in the coming decade.

Nearly one million tons of meat is consumed globally every single day. Although countries like the U.S., China, and Australia are leading consumers of animal-sourced meats, the demand for meat is growing globally, and estimates suggest it could reach an annual figure of 570 million tons by 2050.

Meat, as a source of protein, is highly inefficient. Not only does it require large swathes of land for its production, but also requires large portions of the global grain harvest to be used as animal feed. It takes around 2.5 pounds of grain to produce around 1 pound of beef. At the same time, raising livestock also increases greenhouse emissions.

The demand for meat has doubled in the past 30 years, and if this demand is to be met by conventional means, then it will also lead to an increase in global greenhouse emissions.

Cultivated meat or lab-grown meat has been touted as a possible solution to the problem since it could address the inefficiencies of the conventional meat-growing process and can also scale production to meet the demand. Yet, we are not yet seeing the product on shelves or flying off the shelves in supermarkets.

Interesting Engineering (IE) spoke to Ido Savir, the CEO of SuperMeat, an Israel-based cultivated meat company, to understand the challenges of bringing cultivated meats to the market, how they fare against plant-based meats, and what the future of meat consumption could look like.

How cultivated meat can solve the problems of animal-sourced meat
Ido Savir, the CEO of SuperMeat

Interesting Engineering: What was the inspiration behind Supermeat? 

Ido Savir: Before getting involved in the food tech space, I went from an Israeli Army veteran to a professional career working on the transition of legacy systems through the dawn of computer systems. Having a background in technology - as well as a passion for the environment and animal welfare - I was intrigued by the potential of technology to create a better food system. 

As with the smartphone revolution, the cultivated meat industry faces similar challenges concerning establishing infrastructure and commercial frameworks to be able to reach wide distribution and adoption. This will require collaboration among multiple stakeholders throughout the value chain and will change how we perceive and consume our food. 

I spent the last six years helping to build the cellular agriculture field, setting the foundation to produce cultivated meat on a mass scale. Our work supports solving the meat production crisis, resolving the environmental impact it, and providing nutritious, sustainable food options for the future.  

IE: Why pick cultivated meat over plant-based meat? 

I believe both plant-based alternatives and cultivated meat have a place in a diverse food system. There is a wide variety of wonderful plant-based alternatives that offer delicious, sustainable products. Cultivated meat, however, is not an alternative protein. It is the animal protein that is sourced differently.  

Not every meat lover will eventually convert to a plant-based option, even if it offers similar sustainable qualities. Cultivated meat offers the same sensory and nutritional profile, as well as sustainability, food safety, and food system benefits for those who desire animal protein. 

How cultivated meat can solve the problems of animal-sourced meat
SuperMeat's cultivated chicken looks just like animal sourced meat

Furthermore, cultivated meat gives consumers the option to cook their favorite dishes at home with their favorite ingredients, using the meat in its raw form. It can further enhance the meat experience of existing plant-based products and remove and replace ingredients that are not labeled clean. 

As a B2B player, SuperMeat is building a robust cultivated meat platform, addressing the entire meat category from fat to muscle. As such, we are engaging with food companies to develop high-quality meat products for their target customers

IE: Why is SuperMeat focused on providing cultivated chicken meat? How will this help reduce global meat consumption?

Globally, chicken is the most popular meat consumed, reaching 98 million tons in 2022 and growing. By 2030 it is expected that 40% of the meat consumed globally will be chicken. For us at SuperMeat, it seemed like the natural step to target the most impactful market, so we chose to focus on chicken first due to the popularity of the meat and its marketability.

From a health standpoint, traditionally produced chicken faces many challenges with contamination, and [chickens are] given more antibiotics by weight than cattle or other land animals. Cultivated chicken removes the need for antibiotics because it is grown in a controlled environment and greatly reduces the potential for any cross contamination such as Salmonella and E coli. 

This will be the introduction of a whole new level of quality for poultry meat, being antibiotic-free, GMO-free, highly monitored, and traceable - providing the next level of food safety that the industry has ever known. In terms of environmental efficiency, cultivated chicken meat will require less land, water, and energy than conventional chicken meat, also resulting in lower emissions.

How cultivated meat can solve the problems of animal-sourced meat
Cold Cut cultivated turkey meat

Finally, SuperMeat recently launched the world's first cultivated turkey product line. This launch is a proof point that SuperMeat’s proprietary platform is translatable across meat categories and species, allowing the company to produce a wide variety of meat products in a very resource-efficient manner, using the same production process - dramatically lowering product costs and operational complexities for the overall industry.  

IE: The challenge of artificial meats is their taste. What is Supermeat doing to address this? 

Cultivated meat has the potential to change the way that we eat the foods society loves most and solve some of the biggest challenges facing our food system today, especially when looking at animal agriculture. This burgeoning industry is for the first time able to create real meat, the same meat you would find from a traditionally grown chicken, in a fermentation process – meeting consumer expectations for taste, texture, complete protein, and more – while utilizing a more sustainable production process. 

Cultivated meat has the same nutritional profile as traditional meat. Looking ahead to the next 5 to 10 years, this could shift the entire animal agricultural structure and how major distributors source and sell meat.  

To demonstrate the inherent value of integrating this new production process and source for meat, SuperMeat conducted the world's first blind tasting of cultivated meat and traditionally grown meat side by side in their pure form, conducted by professional chefs and culinary expert judges, who found them to be indistinguishable. 

IE: What was the idea behind the Chicken test kitchen? Do you plan to open up more centers like this? 

At SuperMeat, we believe that transparency and consumer awareness are key factors in addressing the interest in and adoption of cultivated meat. The positive aspects of cultivated meat far outweigh any fears that consumers may have, but often the unknown can be intimidating. Along with meeting the highest standards for food quality and safety, it is our industry's responsibility to provide transparency and traceability of the entire production process. 

How cultivated meat can solve the problems of animal-sourced meat
At Chicken, one can experience the shortest food production chain

As a company, we are deeply committed to this goal, which led us to launch the world's first production-to-fork facility, which opened its doors to the public. In our facility, consumers can watch the entire production process as they eat their meal, which is essentially the same fermentation process used in the food industry for decades for producing yeast, yogurt, and beer.

IE: Why is cultivated meat so expensive? How will costs be brought down?

Ultimately, the scale of production and feed cost are the main drivers for the costs of cultivated meat today. As in the traditional meat industry, feed (cell-culture media) accounts for the majority of production costs. Cell feed typically contains animal-derived serum, making it more expensive and less scalable. 

SuperMeat has put a unique focus on reducing its feed costs by developing its own proprietary animal component-free cell feed. For that effort, SuperMeat received a grant from the IIA (The Israeli Innovation Authority) to fund its work in establishing an open-source high-throughput screening system for optimizing cultivated meat feed ingredients aimed at improving their cost efficiency.

Finally, SuperMeat’s scale-by-design technology utilizes standard fermentation processes producing meat in a natural growth process that grows muscle, fat, and connective tissue altogether. Allowing it to reduce both the cost and complexity of large-scale production while still maintaining the qualities of traditionally produced meat.

IE: What support structures are needed for the industry?  

Regulatory approval from the FDA and USDA is the first and crucial step. The FDA’s recent no-question letter provided to UPSIDE’s cultivated chicken was a huge step toward supporting the commercialization of cultivated meat, but regulatory support will continue to be critical. 

How cultivated meat can solve the problems of animal-sourced meat
SuperMeat's Chicken burger looks no different than an regular one

Regulatory support is also important to provide credibility and approval to spur joint efforts across multiple industries to establish a supply chain and manufacturing infrastructure that will allow the cultivated meat industry to meet global demand.

A government program to support cellular agriculture, similar to one given to the traditional meat industry, will accelerate its expansion and allow companies to achieve economies of scale and reduce costs more quickly. 

IE: How do you plan your operations?

Our R&D base is in Israel, and we set up local entities in every region we plan activity in. Each local entity establishes its manufacturing platforms and partners networks. Our first target market is the US, where we’re in the process of setting up local manufacturing capacity and developing products for the commercial launch with our partners.

IE: What are the hurdles in commercialization? 

To establish a commercially viable supply chain that can scale effectively, there needs to be a joint effort by multiple industries across the value chain. Cultivated meat companies can reduce capital and operational expenditures, streamline the production process, and accelerate commercialization by leveraging existing infrastructures and processes.

How cultivated meat can solve the problems of animal-sourced meat
SuperMeat has turkey meat in its sights now

A production facility, for example, is one of the most significant expenses. A cultivated meat company can greatly reduce infrastructure and operation costs by partnering with established companies across the production process value chain that have existing facilities that can be repurposed.

IE: Where is the cultivated meat industry heading in the near future? Does it face stiff competition from plant-based meats? 

With the recent FDA no-question letter for cultivated meat in the US, the industry is at a major turning point. We anticipate additional approvals will come in the US and around the world, helping push forward commercialization. This year the industry as a whole will be focused on building infrastructure and supply chains to set up cultivated meat for mass-scale and long-term success. 

As part of this effort, SuperMeat has teamed up with Ajinomoto, a multinational food and biotechnology corporation and the world’s largest producer of amino acids, to help solve supply chain issues and accelerate the commercialization of cultivated animal protein.  

Supermeat recently conducted a survey of US chefs that found 86% are interested in serving cultivated meat or poultry, and 22% of chefs indicated they are "very interested.” In addition, 84% of chefs would consider replacing traditional meat with cultivated meat or poultry on their menus if pricing were similar – and 77% of chefs would be willing to pay a premium for cultivated meat for a first taste. With new food innovations typically introduced to chefs and food service first, this provides a very positive outlook on the initial introduction of cultivated meat to the market. 

As far as plant-based meats are concerned, we don’t see the industries as competing. On the contrary, there are many opportunities for collaborating and enhancing existing plant-based products with cultivated meat ingredients, providing the next generation of both plant-based and meat products.

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