Whether it’s steak, burgers, or chops, Americans love meat. However, serious environmental issues arise from large-scale cultivation and butchering operations, especially increased greenhouse gas emissions. What’s a possible solution? A U.K. startup might have found one.
Ivy Farm is developing lab-grown meat that could reduce the reliance on big agriculture. According to the company, founded in 2019, lab meat cultivation produces no emissions nor requires trees to be razed for animal pastures — even fighting deforestation in the rainforest.
“Due to a growing global population, increasing wealth in emerging economies, price factors, taste preferences, and lack of awareness or education around the impact of food on the planet, meat consumption isn’t declining,” company representatives told Consensus via email.
The meat cultivation process involves taking a small sample of animal cells and feeding them nutrients in a bioreactor so they can multiply. The final product looks and fries like regular meat. “We don’t have to grow the whole animal. We can just grow the parts that we want that are nutritious, that are delicious,” said Rich Dillon, Ivy Farm CEO, to CNN.
Despite plant-based diets increasing in popularity, there hasn’t been enough adoption from the public to make a real impact on the climate crisis. People love real meat. It’s hard to give up something we love.
“For meat eaters in particular, cultivated meat offers a much easier transition — it tastes like meat, looks like meat, and possesses the same or superior nutritional qualities,” Ivy Farm’s representatives explained.
“It’s a no-brainer — cultivated meat is the solution to the meat problem!”
Ivy Farm planned to produce 12,000 tons of cultured meat annually by 2025. It’s now on track for sausages in small-scale premium restaurants by 2027. It hopes to follow with meatballs and beef burgers. If they can successfully do it, this will save 170,000 pigs from slaughter.
However, some major updates in the U.S. may update those plans. In November 2022, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said lab-grown meat is safe to eat. Singapore is the first nation that has approved the products for sale to consumers in 2020. This step forward has the firm considering entering the U.S. as its first market. Company representatives explained the U.S. has a “clearer regulatory path” while the U.K. and Europe are “amenable to cultivated meat regulations.”
The FDA’s decision was based on findings provided by UPSIDE Foods. The California-based cultured meat operation aims to end the reliance on the poultry industry. Other requirements must still be met and inspections completed by the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) before the food can enter the market.
“They’ve accepted our conclusion that our cultivated chicken is safe to eat, meaning Upside is one step closer to being on tables everywhere.” Uma Valeti, CEO of Upside Foods, tweeted. These developments open the door for further investment in the company.
Government regulations aside, another hurdle is the financial aspect of producing lab-grown meat. It’s not cheap to make the stuff. The first stem-grown burger, created in 2013, cost $330,000. That was for a single patty.
Serious investment will be needed to develop meat on a massive scale. While Ivy Farm says it can make a burger for less than $50, that’s still pretty expensive to manufacture for a large population. However, the company told Consensus that it anticipates cultivated meat to be “priced competitively” to traditionally produced animal items.
Some venture capitalists are jumping on the lab-grown meat bandwagon. VC firm Andreessen Horowitz ran one of the first lab-cultivated meat investment rounds for SciFi Foods, another lab-grown meat company. Startups like Ivy Farm and Upside Foods are also in prime positions for investment.
Ivy Farm is expanding. The company recently opened Europe’s largest and first cultivated meat pilot facility, and a partnership with the Dennis Group will establish a U.S.-based plant. “In the not-too-distant future, we can all help in the fight against climate change whilst continuing to enjoy eating meat!” the company representatives said.