Cellular agriculture is the process of producing animal-based foods and other products directly from animal cells.
Cellular agriculture offers a wide range of products from cultivated meat, poultry, fish and seafood, to other animal-based products e.g., cultivated foie gras, eggs, dairy, other non-food products.
A small sample of animal cells is placed into a growth medium. The cells, nourished and stimulated by the growth medium, grow and develop into muscle, fat or other tissues to form meat and other animal products.
All food on the market in the EU must be safe. Each company developing cultivated animal food products in the EU must undergo a thorough pre-market safety review, and must comply with existing food safety regulations.
Currently billions of animals are slaughtered for food every year. Cultivated meat and seafood can be made from a small sample of cells without the need to kill the animal.
The method of sourcing cells differs per product and per company. A small sample of animal tissue can be taken from a live animal or from a freshly fertilized egg. Some companies may use a sample to create cell lines that are frozen and used for years while some may choose to use primary cells and take samples more often. Whatever method is chosen, it can be done without causing discomfort to the animal.
No, it is not required. Due to the ethical issues raised by the source and the extremely high cost, most cultured meat, poultry and fish producers have publicly stated they will be using alternatives to FBS in commercial manufacturing processes. Animal-free and more cost-effective nutrient media are in development, with some already in use in late-stage product development.
No, for the production of cultivated meat, poultry or fish products, GM techniques are not required. Cultivated meat and other cultivated animal-based products may be produced with or without the use of genetic engineering.
The growth medium is a solution that provides all the necessary nutrients and components for normal cell and tissue growth and development, from the initial few cells to the final product. The medium contains the same ingredients, e.g., sugars, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and/or growth factors as would be found in standard feed for animals, to mimic the natural environment in which cells grow. Cellular Agriculture Europe members’ objective is not to use components of animal origin in growth media used in the production of commercial cultivated animal products.
Growth factors are naturally-occurring types of proteins that instruct the cells on what they should do as part of normal growth and development. For example, to multiply, or to mature into specific tissues and cell types.
Cellular agriculture developers and producers make every effort not to use antibiotic substances in production, and like conventional meat companies, will be required to demonstrate that products are compliant with the applicable law for antibiotic residues in the EU.
Cellular Agriculture Europe members’ objective is to produce food that is nutritionally equivalent to their conventionally produced counterparts.
A recent study by CE Delft – the first ever to be based on data from cultivated meat companies – compared the projected water use of cellular agriculture to an ambitious benchmark of conventional products, and showed the water footprint of cultivated beef to be 78% lower than conventionally produced beef (258L/kg), and similar to the water footprint of conventional pork and poultry production. The footprint calculation includes water used to irrigate the crops which serve as sources of nutrients added to the growth media, the water used in the growth media as well as water needed for cleaning the production facility. Water usage is expected to vary depending on the process and type of product.
A recent study by CE Delft – the first ever to be based on data from cultivated meat companies – found that cultivating meat from cells could cut the climate impact of meat production by up to 92%. This is compared to an ambitious scenario for conventional animal agriculture in 2030 – where farmers manage to cut the carbon footprint of meat by 15% (beef), 26% (pork) and 53% (chicken). Compared with current average environmental impacts, the benefits of cultivated meat are even greater. And if we use the freed-up land for rewilding or carbon sequestration, the positive climate impacts could be greater still.
The European Union has indicated that it intends to regulate cultivated meat according to Novel Food Regulation (EU) 2015/2283.
A novel cultivated chicken product has been approved in Singapore. In the United Kingdom, following the UK’s exit from the EU the novel food regulatory framework transitioned to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), retaining certain pieces of the EU legislation.4 In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have published a statement on joint regulation of the production of cell cultured meat, poultry, fish and seafood products.5 The FDA will regulate the cellular agriculture stages of production, the FDA and FSIS will jointly regulate and monitor the transition stage from cell culture to meat product, and the FSIS will regulate the meat and meat processing stages through packaging, labelling, storage and distribution of the products. There are novel food regulations being developed in other jurisdictions e.g., Japan, China.
Cellular Agriculture is a dynamic and growing industry so these FAQs might not answer all questions you might have. If you have specific questions, feel free to get in touch.