Cultured Meat Will Cost Startups $150m-$370m (and Take At Least 4 More Years) to Bring to Market

There is a reason that high profile investors and entrepreneurs — and therefore media outlets globally — are getting increasingly excited about alternative protein-based food sources.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that animal agriculture contributes to around 15% of greenhouse gas emissions of which 60% comes from cows getting consumers. And with increasing demand for protein from the developing nations of the world that have typically only been able to afford plant-based diets, the situation seems critical.

Consumer demand for protein is still at all-time highs in developed countries too, but increasingly cognisant of the resource-intensive nature of animal agriculture, these consumers want alternatives as the vegan movement spreads across the western world.

Innovators and entrepreneurs are therefore creating solutions that aim to cut animals altogether from the meat industry with alternative meat substitutes.

The most prolific and successful alternative meat approach to-date uses plant proteins to try to mimic the taste and feel of meat, commonly in the form of burgers. But there is also a small subset of startups using cellular agriculture to physically culture meat in a laboratory.

The first lab-grown burger was produced in 2013 by Mark Post, a Dutch professor of vascular physiology who is founder of Mosa Meats. After taking muscle stem cells from a cow’s shoulder in a gentle biopsy, he used established tissue engineering methods to painstakingly nurture the 20,000 individual muscle fibers that made up the burger in several large flasks in his lab at Maastricht University in The Netherlands. 

That burger famously cost around $1.2 million per pound, and while entrepreneurs and enthusiasts in the space argue that the cost will, and already has, come down as technology advances, there are still some question marks about how long and how much money it will take before these meat options actually hit our plates.

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