Cultured or lab-grown meat promises to revolutionise the way meat products are produced and consumed. Cutting out resource-intensive animal farming and instead growing food products in lab cultures allows meat to be produced in a more ethical and environmentally friendly manner.

We recently covered 5 challenges faced by the cultured meat industry. Now, a start-up named SCiFi Foods has announced a major breakthrough which could address two of these challenges – price and scale-up of production.

Meat in a lab - suspend your disbelief

SCiFi Foods have applied CRISPR-based methods of genetic modification to alter how beef cells grow in a cell culture. Unmodified beef cells tend to cluster together on surfaces or attach to one another when grown in liquid suspension. This limits the number of cells that can be grown in a bioreactor, due to the need for microcarriers (usually plastic beads) for the cells to grow upon. By applying CRISPR to genetically modify the beef cells, SCiFi Foods are now able to grow the cells in suspension, allowing for a much higher density of cells.

Blended burgers - cultured meat meets plant-based ingredients

The newly modified cells will allow greater scale-up of production, which will in turn lead to a reduction in the price of the final product. SCiFi Foods plan to further reduce the price of their product by manufacturing a burger using a blend of both plant-based ingredients and cultured beef cells.

The company plans to open a pilot plant in the San Francisco Bay Area by the second half of 2024. SCiFi Foods expect to be able to produce a blended burger for under $10 at the pilot plant stage. A price as low as $1 could be achieved once large-scale production begins.

Navigating US & EU policy

Another challenge we reported on is government policy. SCiFi Foods are hoping that they will have the green light to market their burgers in the US by the time their pilot plant opens. The US, however, has a much more relaxed stance on GMOs than many other major markets.

Last year, the EU published a report signalling for a desire to revise the current GMO regulation. But, with public consultation ongoing in Europe, it remains to be seen how much appetite there will be for approval of genetically modified cultured meat products in the EU.

Here to help

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of SCiFi Food’s blended burger pilot scheme yields.