How cultured meat achieves price parity with animal meat

The company Cellular Agriculture aims to revolutionise meat production by developing a sustainable, weather-independent alternative in a climate-controlled laboratory – free from pesticides, antibiotics and ethical concerns. Despite previous challenges with regard to scalability and technology, the company is working on innovative solutions for sustainable meat production.
7 February, 2024 by
How cultured meat achieves price parity with animal meat
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

Instead of foraging hard from the fields, we could grow our meat in an air-conditioned laboratory – regardless of the weather, without the use of pesticides for feed, without antibiotics for livestock and without discussions about animal welfare. However, up until now, there have been considerable hurdles in terms of scalability and technical possibilities. Illtud Dunsford, the CEO of the British company Cellular Agriculture wants to change that. 

Cellular Agriculture has developed a production process based on hollow fibre membrane bioreactor technology. Current cultured meat production predominantly uses stirred tank reactor technology, which has been common in the brewing industry for centuries and has been employed in the food and biopharmaceutical industries since the early 20th century to industrialise fermentation methods. Cellular Agriculture's process mimics the vascular system of the human body, enabling nutrients to be delivered directly to the cells and achieving the highest theoretical cell densities of any bioreactor system. So far, the company predicts a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 90% reduction in land use and a 50% reduction in water use compared with livestock farming.

But Illtud Dunsford and his team aren’t interested in launching an expensive consumer product. Instead, they are playing for time and developing the underlying technology that developers of lab-grown meat will eventually desperately need for scalability.

"We aren’t food manufacturers, we’re engineers. We're focused on providing a solution that helps this consumer-facing industry achieve price parity with traditional meat production," Illtud Dunsford told Advances magazine. "We can already cut capital costs by 50% and operating costs by up to 70%. When we factor in the further efficiency gains from recycling and waste reduction, we predict a decrease in operating costs of up to 98%, which will ultimately lead to cultured meat becoming a reality on the shelves of our local shops."

In addition to developing the technology, the company has carried out feasibility studies for the ESA and is currently supporting the Royal Agricultural University within the framework of the Cultured Meat & Farmers project. This project describes the consequences for conventional agriculture once cultured meat can be produced on a large scale. It will analyse how farms could react to this new technology. For example, they could become direct competitors, act as suppliers or even produce cultured meat themselves. The results of the project will help policymakers and investors better understand the various impacts the technology will have on agriculture and rural communities.

Learn more about Illtud Dunsford and the project Cultured Meat & Farmers at the 4th International Food Innovation Conferen​ce, which takes place at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute on 19 June 2024. We will gather thought leaders, industry and nutrition experts at the GDI under the theme "Culture Clash: When Food Innovation Meets Tradition". We explain which cultural hurdles need to be overcome for food innovations during production, preparation and consumption. We'll also identify cultural opportunities. For example, when established habits and rituals enable more sustainable enjoyment.

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