A recent life cycle assessment study by independent research firm CE Delft shows that cultivated meat may result in up to 92% less global warming and 93% less air pollution and use up to 95% less land and 78% less water, when compared with conventional beef.
The study shows that by 2030, the cost of cell-based meat could drop to $5.66 per kg when manufactured at scale. This production cost will enable cultivated meat to compete with multiple forms of conventional meat or serve as a high-quality ingredient in plant-based meat products, it says.
CE Delft, with support from The Good Food Institute and GAIA, utilised data from companies active in the cultivated meat supply chain to make the life cycle assessment (LCA) and techno-economic assessment (TEA). The report is said to have painted the “most complete picture to date” of the anticipated environmental impacts and costs of large-scale cultivated meat production.
The LCA analyses various scenarios, including the probable adoption of renewable energy by both the conventional and cultivated meat industry as part of their climate mitigation efforts. “In the most optimistic scenario, which factors in ambitious projections of conventional animal agriculture’s achievements in environmental impact improvements, cultivated meat outperforms all forms of conventional meat,” the study mentions.
The LCA shows that cultivated meat, when produced using renewable energy, reduces the cumulative environmental impacts of conventional beef by approximately 93%, pork by 53%, and chicken by 29%. In these scenarios, the conventional products are also produced using renewable energy.
It also shows that renewable energy is the key to unlocking cultivated meat’s huge climate mitigation potential and demonstrates the dramatic gains that mutually reinforcing climate solution strategies can deliver. As for the impact of pollutants on human health, it highlights that cultivated meat causes significantly less harm than conventional meat.
The report does not include the global human health benefits associated with decoupling meat production from conditions that give rise to zoonotic disease transmission and antibiotic resistance.
CE Delft Senior Researcher Ingrid Odegard says, “With this analysis, we show that cultivated meat presents as an achievable low-carbon, cost-competitive agricultural technology that can play a major role in achieving a carbon-neutral food system. This research provides a solid base on which companies can build, improve, and advance in their goal of producing cultivated meat sustainably at scale and at a competitive price point.”
On land use, the study says that conventional meat uses up to 19 times more land than cultivated beef, which doesn’t require crops and pastures to raise and feed livestock. A transition from conventional animal agriculture to cultivated meat production can free up land to restore ecosystems and sequester carbon. These parallel climate strategies can act as force multipliers in global efforts to reduce and offset carbon emissions.
GFI Executive Director Bruce Friedrich adds, “The world will not get to net-zero emissions without addressing food and land, and alternative proteins are a key aspect of how we do that. Decarbonizing the global economy is impossible with the diffuse production process and range of gases involved in conventional animal agriculture. As these new models illustrate, if we can concentrate the environmental impact of meat production in a single, manageable space — and if we power that space with electricity generated from clean energy sources — that’s how the world gets to net-zero emissions.”
A few weeks back, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had too suggested that rich nations should switch to “100% synthetic beef” in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are driving global climate change.