Review and analysis of studies on sustainability of cultured meat

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Protein alternatives are crucial for a sustainable food production in future. Cultured meat is presented as a good alternative for consumers who want to be more sustainable but do not wish to change their diet. To validate this sustainability claim, this report evaluates four LCA studies on cultured meat. When comparing overall environmental impact of cultured meat with conventional meat products and other meat substitutes, cultured meat was seen to perform significantly better than beef, favourable to pork, similar to chicken, and worse than plant-based alternatives considering current global average production impacts. It is important to realize that currently no commercial-scale cultured meat facility is operational. All LCA studies modelled a future facility, extrapolating scientific and small-scale facilities. Differences in system boundaries lead to high variability of environmental impact results for cultured meat among reviewed studies. The LCA system boundaries mostly include the cultivation-related processes, while product formulation and distribution are not taken into account. An important technical bottleneck that is not addressed are the large volumes of the fermenters and the extended cultivation times, which will need extraordinary sterility measures. The LCA overview shows that cultured meat production is energy intensive and that energy consumption have the highest contribution in the overall impact. Next, growth medium production showed significant contribution to impact, especially the amino acid production and recombinant protein production for growth factors. Sensitivity analysis of model parameters showed that parameter choices on cell density and medium use impacted the results most. Technically, the cultured meat industry is still very much in development. Obvious improvements that are needed are the reduction in energy, development of scaffolds, and lower medium cost, specifically in developing cheaper plant-based growth factors that are non GMO. Also product development is in its infancy. Cultured meat is part of a movement towards more sustainable meat alternatives that also includes plant-based alternatives, insects and microbial protein. These sources should not be regarded as competition but as complementary products that target different types of consumers. In combination with other meat alternatives, cultured meat can lead to reduced production and consumption of conventional meat.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Food & Biobased Research
Number of pages44
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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NameReport / Wageningen Food & Biobased Research


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