Alt: Meat Lab Director Comments on the Future of Lab-Grown Meat


September 27, 2021


Future of Cultured Meat Businesses

In an article by The Counter, a newsroom that investigates the forces shaping how and what America eats, Ricardo San Martin, Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology’s Alt: Meat Lab Director and Professor, expresses his perspective on the future of cell-cultured meat production and the implication for businesses.  

The article, ‘Lab-grown meat is supposed to be inevitable. The science tells a different story.’ by Joe Fassler, explores why cell-cultured meat will “likely never be a cost-competitive food” because of the extremely technical challenges the cell-culture process faces when it comes to scaling. The article argues that if lab-grown meat cannot cut down its costs of manufacturing, it may not actually feed a meaningful number of people. The article elaborates on various factors that affect the cultured meat industry, and what needs to go right for these businesses to flourish. 

Bioreactors producing meat – Image by Cristina Estanislao for The Counter article
Bioreactors producing meat – Image by Cristina Estanislao for The Counter article

The article also discusses how we continue to optimistically look towards lab-grown meat as a solution to help save the climate as well as help feed a larger population at a lower cost. However, Professor San Martin expresses his view in the article that the economic viability of cultivated meat depends entirely on companies being able to make cells grow beyond their biological limits. Specifically, he believes that a higher cell density is required for lab-grown meat to become cost-effective – more cell density results in more meat per batch, which consequentially will result in a decrease in the number of bioreactors needed as well as a smaller space required for the production. The article states Professor San Martin’s perspective that if companies have not made any progress on improving cell density, “the whole idea of cultured meat at scale isn’t a business plan: It’s speculation.”

To learn more about the uncertain future of alternative meat and read Professor San Martin’s thoughts on the topic, click below to access The Counter article:

About SCET’s Alt: Meat Lab

The Alt: Meat Lab is a hub connecting students, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and industry leaders interested in creating the plant-based food of the future. First and foremost an academic resource, the Lab aims to research and educate. Led by Dr. Ricardo San Martin, the Lab works in conjunction with — but independent from — various partners on projects that put the Lab on the front lines of our changing culinary landscape. Although the Lab began its work replicating animal meat, the Lab is broadly interested in all types of animal products, including but not limited to eggs, dairy and seafood. The Alt: Meat Lab is housed at the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering, and is comprised of the Lab and a course. Click here to learn more about SCET’s Alt: Meat Challenge Lab course