Science

Future Meats drives cost of lab-grown chicken down to $1.70 a breast

Future Meats drives cost of la...
Future Meats is rapidly reducing the cost of its lab-grown chicken is rapdily
Future Meat Technologies is rapidly reducing the cost of its lab-grown chicken
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Future Meats is rapidly reducing the cost of its lab-grown chicken is rapdily
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Future Meat Technologies is rapidly reducing the cost of its lab-grown chicken
Future Meat Technologies opened a production facility for lab-grown meat in Rehovot, Israel earlier this year
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Future Meat Technologies opened a production facility for lab-grown meat in Rehovot, Israel earlier this year

There has been a lot of activity in the world of cultured meat since we reported on a US$330,000 lab-grown burger back in 2013, as scientists and startups work to bring the price down to something resembling the real deal. Making inroads in this space is Israeli startup Future Meats, which has just received the largest investment ever in the cultured meat industry and is rapidly reducing the production costs of its lab-grown chicken.

Future Meats is one of a number of cultured meat companies working to reach cost parity with traditional meat products, with Impossible Foods, Eat Just and fellow Israeli outfit Aleph Farms also making significant advances in the last couple of years. Despite it also popping up in big-name chains like KFC and McDonalds, lab-grown meat is yet to hit the supermarket shelves in a broad sense, as the costs of production remain a few steps behind traditional agriculture.

With its own proprietary technology it calls a "media rejuvenation process," Future Meats is looking to make up this ground, fast. Its approach involves taking cells harvested from live animals and using stainless steel fermenters to continually remove waste products, while feeding the cells nutrients so that they proliferate and develop into tissues and, in turn, edible cuts of meat.

The company says this process leads to yields 10 times higher than the industry standard, while generating 80 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, using 99 percent less land and 96 percent less freshwater than traditional meat production. Back in February, Future Meats announced that its technology had advanced to the point where it could produce a cultured chicken breast for US$7.50, and then in June it opened the world's first lab-grown meat factory in the Israeli city of Rehovot, where it was able to produce these breasts for $3.90 a pop.

Future Meat Technologies opened a production facility for lab-grown meat in Rehovot, Israel earlier this year
Future Meat Technologies opened a production facility for lab-grown meat in Rehovot, Israel earlier this year

After using the facility to scale up its media rejuvenation technology, the company says it has reduced this cost to $1.70, while the production cost for each pound (453 g) of cultured chicken is $7.70, down from just under $18 six months ago. Future Meats does appear to be making rapid progress, but as a gauge, the average price for a pound of chicken in a US city is around $3.60 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. So factoring in the other costs associated with getting it onto the shelves, there remains some work to do for Future Meats to make up the difference.

"We have consistently demonstrated that our single-cell technology and serum-free media formulations can reach cost parity faster than the market anticipates," says Professor Yaakov Nahmias, founder and president of Future Meat. "We also demonstrated that our proprietary media rejuvenation technology enables cell densities greater than 100 billion cells per liter, translating to production densities 10-times higher than the industrial standard."

Helping its efforts along will be the $347 million in series B funding it just raised, as it looks to expand with a new plant in the US and accelerate its plans for mass production. It is currently scouting locations for this large-scale production facility, with construction expected to get underway next year.

"We are incredibly excited by the massive support of our global network of strategic and financial investors," says Nahmias. "This financing consolidates Future Meat's position as the leading player in the cultivated meat industry, just three years after our launch. Our singular technology reduced production costs faster than anyone thought possible, paving the way for a massive expansion of operations. Our team will break ground on the first-of-its-kind, large-scale production facility in the United States in 2022."

Source: Future Meats via PRNewswire

11 comments
11 comments
windykites
Let's hope they will be able to meat demand! (lol) This is a premium product, and will appeal to a lot of people from the humane point of view. There is a lot of meat substitutes already on the market, so it had better taste good to compete.
paul314
When we cite the cost of animal-grown chicken breasts, we should really include a bunch of costs that get spread over society at large, including air and water pollution, potential disease spread, occupational injuries and so forth. The lab-grown version should have smaller numbers for at least some of those.
guzmanchinky
I cannot wait for lab meat of all kinds, and I'd be willing to pay more for it just for the lack of cruelty to both the animals and the environment.
DavidB
@paul314, see the passage "The company says this process leads to yields 10 times higher than the industry standard, while generating 80 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, using 99 percent less land and 96 percent less freshwater than traditional meat production."

That means they're claiming to create 10 times as much meat, generate only 20% as much greenhouse gas, and use 1% of the land and 4% of the water. If those numbers are accurate, I'd say they've addressed most of your stated concerns.

I suppose injuries might be potentially higher in a factory than on a megafarm, perhaps...
¯\_ *.* _/¯

paul314
@DavidB I was looking at things the other way around. Animal-grown meat may cost less at the supermarket than lab-grown, but if you factor in the environmental and other costs of animal-grown meat (which we all end up paying as a society), the total cost of consumption may be much closer to equal.
Ralf Biernacki
The last time I commented on the technology, it was based on embryonic serum media, which made it both prohibitively expensive, and dubious as far as the humane aspect. The key breakthrough here is the "serum-free medium" that Future Meat is using---that's what's bringing the cost down. Seeing as two of the companies are Israel-based, I can't but wonder what the kosher status of lab-grown meat is, now that they no longer use a treyf blood product as a medium.
Peter W.
I wonder if this is the key for space explorers where they can grow their meat/protein requirements on a space station or on Mars/Mood et al. This technology would save transport costs with only the base cells needing to be sent up saving expensive fuel and load mass to orbit.
Anechidna
Early days for these products. We are still talking highly processed foods and are they an equivalent match or do we need supplements. Many claims of cultured products having a lower impact on the environment and requiring less inputs than traditional meats and as a claim to fame, I suspect there isn't a full accounting because you cannot create a pound of chicken breast without having inputs and the inputs are let us say are not fully quantified yet. Is it a conversion process of 1 for 1, 5 for 1 , or possibly 10 for 1, let us see these numbers.
Bob Stuart
Don't invest in big factories. It only takes a week to get used to better flavours from plants in traditional recipes. If your body has been satisfied, it tells your tongue.
Pablo
Sorry, I’ll just have the salad. This whole concept is something I find revolting. Humans have been eating other animals for millennia. If you prefer this stuff, have at it…
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