Believer Meats study in Nature Food shines line on cultivated meat metrics

One of a handful of cultivated meat startups now operating at pilot-scale (from its base in Rehovot, Israel), BELIEVER Meats​​​ is one of the top-funded players in the industry, raising $347m in its series B round last year to help commercialize Non-GMO technology it claims enables it to achieve higher-density cell cultures and more efficient use of media than rivals in the nascent space.  

It has since broken ground on a 200,000-square-foot facility in Wilson, North Carolina, that it claims will be the largest cultivated meat production facility in the world​​ with the capacity to produce at least 10,000 metric tons of cultivated meat (around 22 million lbs) per year.

Cultivated meat: Intractable technical challenges at food scale?

While growing meat from cells in bioreactors instead of living breathing animals should logically be more efficient as resources are spent on growing only the cells that make up the meat product rather than keeping an animal alive, no one has yet proved this at scale, however.

Skepticism about the commercial viability of the technology reached new levels in late 2021 when UC Berkeley-trained chemical engineer David Humbird told The Counter​​ that the technology faced “intractable technical challenges at food scale.”

Much of this related to cell densities (too low) and media costs (too high), with Humbird concluding that it was “hard to find an angle that wasn’t a ludicrous dead end.”

Cell densities outlined in study far higher than those in Humbird analysis

The new paper in Nature Food​​ – published in late December and co-authored by Prof. Nahmias at Believer Meats and scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – tackles both of these issues, outlining a non-GMO process whereby Believer Meats grows fibroblasts (initially extracted from fertilized broiler embryos) in single cell suspension (ie. without having to adhere to anything, enabling higher cell densities) in animal-free serum, without the need for expensive growth factors.