Cultivated meat could be a $25-billion global industry by 2030

16 July 2021 3 min. read

Cultivated (or lab-grown) meat could be a $25-billion global industry by 2030, according to a new report from consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Getting there will require consumer acceptance, scaling, and cost reduction, among other factors. 

In late 2020, a ritzy club in Singapore served a sesame chicken dish where the main ingredient was lab-grown meat. The dish was made using Eat Just’s chicken product, which consists of 70% cultivated meat, as well as plant protein added for structure. Cultivated meat is currently only approved for consumption in Singapore.

That will change as the industry matures, grows, and scales up.  The cultivated meat industry currently consists of fewer than 100 startups, and attracted approximately $350 million in investments in 2020 and $250 million in 2021 thus far.

According to McKinsey, the industry could account for as much as 0.5% of global meat supply by 2030 – representing a $25-billion market. Reaching that figure will entail overcoming numerous hurdles, however.

The first is consumer acceptance. Many consumers have deep cultural and psychological ties to conventional meat. They also know how their salmon steak and chicken breasts should taste and feel – which provides a loftier task for cultivated meat R&D to achieve.The animal protein market is growing at 1% annuallyHowever, McKinsey says the industry has the potential to surpass the taste and texture of conventional meat, while also possibly offering rare and expensive meats – such as Wagyu beef, wild salmon, and ostrich – at cheaper prices.

Price is perhaps the largest hurdle to clear, with production currently at lab- and pilot-scale levels. McKinsey says 75% of costs can be eliminated via increased scale and improved manufacturing processes, while an additional 25% could be lopped off by improving R&D. This would bring total cost down 99.5%, from thousands of dollars to under $5 per pound. The firm says it could take approximately a decade before consumers could pay less for cultivated meat than conventional meat.

Companies also need to convince people cultivated meat is as safe and nutritious as conventional meat. That involves getting FDA approval and demonstrating a track record of safety. R&D can also be fine-tuned to produce products with superior nutrition profiles, included “extra lean” varieties.

Depending on factors such as consumer acceptance and price

The growth of cultivated meat could create several economic and social issues, though. It will remain a luxury item for wealthy consumers until economies of scale can be achieved. That growth could consequently reduce farm size and impact the scale of conventional meat – increasing prices in that category.

Though the conventional meat industry would require a similar number of workers as the conventional industry, the jobs therein would be very different. The majority of jobs would be frontline workers – including plant operators and supervisors – but up to 20% of jobs would be bio-processing engineer roles.

Policymakers would have to examine how labor would need to be reskilled and redeployed. There is also still a potential for overall job losses if the jobs in input production (glucose, cultivation media, etc.) don’t equal the jobs lost in animal ranching.

The industry could be more attractive to some jurisdictions with its sustainability potential. Cultivated meat currently has a sustainability profile similar to poultry or pork in terms of CO2 production and land and water usage (which is 75% lower than beef production). That could be further lowered by process improvements, according to McKinsey.

"Cultivated meat has garnered significant attention as a protein source that can meet consumer needs with a reduced impact on the planet," the strategy consultancy concludes. "That potential is real. Further investment, ingenuity, and commitment are likely needed to move this concept from a novel small-batch product to one of the tempting protein options on millions, if not billions, of people’s plates."