The FDA’s recent approval of UPSIDE Foods and GOOD Meat cell-cultivated chicken, along with the industry’s milestones on lowering production costs and the challenge of feeding a projected global population of 10 billion by 2050, will attract investments in cultivated meat companies and support from governments in terms of grants and loans.
Investments in cultivated meat startups experienced a 233 percent growth from $92 million in 2019 to about $300 million in 2020. However, they stagnated at around $800 million as of November 2022. This new capital will fuel the expansion of the sector, argues Andy Ko, technology analyst at IDTechEx.
Funding has been shifting toward institutional support and away from accelerators, early-stage venture capital, and angel investors typical of the industry’s first years, he says. Venture capital sources lost interest due to rising capex costs associated with scaling the sector. Consequently, companies and startups are seeking government support and other financial resources.
Meat giants joining the sector
But according to Ko, investments in cultivated meat companies from well-known and respected food players indicate that the industry is progressing — companies have moved from prototypes developed in the lab to scaling their technologies to produce at a small scale. GOOD Meat has been selling its cultivated chicken in Singapore since 2020.
Conventional meat companies such as Tyson and JBS have actively participated in the alt protein space, rebranding themselves as protein companies, reflecting a common trend.
Cargill and Tyson Foods, for example, have invested in UPSIDE Foods, and Aleph Farms partnered with Brazilian-based global meat producer BRF in the spring of 2021. JBS made a significant move in 2022 by acquiring BioTech Foods, marking a major meat processor’s first acquisition of a cultivated meat startup. JBS is already constructing a cultivated meat facility for its subsidiary.
Cultivated meat, still a very young industry, has experienced significant growth, with various developments contributing to its expansion.
From the first $300,000 burger grown by Mark Post, now the CEO of Mosa Meat, a company with one of the largest production facilities, to the recently approved cell-cultivated chicken, the industry has been moving from prototypes developed at pharmaceutical costs to finding ways to lower the costs of an industry building its entire production from zero.
Despite the industry’s progress, it still faces obstacles. Scaling up cell biomass production to meet demand poses technical and supply chain challenges that have not been solved yet. Bioprocess tech, consumer acceptance, safety, and government regulations pose significant barriers to the industry.
Hybrid cultivated / plant-based products
Since growing cultivated cells at scale remains costly, and meat made entirely from cells at reasonable costs is still not viable, the initial products entering the market blend cultivated meat and plant-based ingredients. This approach offers a more straightforward path to creating commercially viable products, at least in the short term, says Ko.
For instance, GOOD Meat chicken, debuting in the US this summer, is a hybrid product made blend of cells and plant proteins. UPSIDE Foods has also announced a new range of hybrid products, including chicken sausages, chicken sandwiches, and dumplings made with cultivated ground meat, herbs, and plant-based proteins. UPSIDE Foods also will offer consumers for the first time in the US its approved cell-cultivated chicken at Bar Crenn in San Francisco this August.
“It’s a dream come true to have UPSIDE’s cultivated chicken at Bar Crenn,” said Uma Valeti, CEO and Founder of UPSIDE Foods. “This pivotal moment marks a new chapter in history, where consumers have the opportunity to experience the authentic taste of cultivated meat, and to step forward with us towards a brighter, more delicious future”, he continued.