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Editor’s note: The word “meat” has long been understood to mean “the flesh of an animal used as food.” But the recent developments in plant-based and cell-cultured meats are challenging that definition and the very use of the word, while purists are defending “meat” as applicable only to conventionally produced animal-flesh foods.

Interestingly, history is on the side of the challengers as the etymology for meat is that of the Old English  word mete  “food, nourishment, sustenance” or “item of food”; the Proto-Germanic mati meaning “a meal, repast”; and other similar uses (etymonline.com). But, in a number of states, the law is on the side of the defenders, with bills passed or being considered by at least 14 states to limit the use of the term “meat” in food labeling to exclude plant-derived, cell-cultured, and even insect-based products. Alternatively, the products would likely be referred to simply as “protein.”

While the terminology for plant- and cell-based “meats” is being ground out, the innovations and trends are continuing at a breakneck speed.

PLANT-BASED “MEATS”. In 2018, the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) released new data showing robust increases in the plant-based foods industry with sales topping $3.3 billion. Commissioned from retail sales research company Nielsen, the custom dataset shows the total market for the plant-based food sector is up 20% in dollar sales over the last year, as compared to an increase of 2% for all food departments sold in the same channel. (All food departments include refrigerated, deli, grocery, dairy, meat, produce, bakery, and frozen foods.) Plant-based meat sales, specifically, are growing at a rate of 24% (compared to 6% the previous year) topping $670 million in sales.

This is the second year the association released Nielsen retail sales data. Last year, plant-based foods grew 8%. With the increased growth rate of 20%, it’s clear that the plant-based foods industry is one that consumers, producers, retailers, and foodservice providers are all taking seriously. Additional information is available from PBFA.

CULTURED “MEATS”. Cultured meat  is  that which is  produced by  in-vitro  cultivation of animal cells, instead of from slaughtered animals (Wikipedia).

According to 2019 BCC Research report “Synthetic (Cultured) Meat: Technologies and Global Markets,” the cultured meat market is being driven by an increasing demand for healthy, high-quality, and safe meat products that are produced in environmentally sustainable and economically sound ways. Thus, the research expects that investments for the commercial development of this meat will coincide with advancements in cell-culture technology to meet the rising demand.

Cultured meat is produced by accumulating cells from an animal and developing them in an enriched and favorable medium, thereby creating meat free from harmful organisms. The study, which analyzed the market for the main meat sources (beef, poultry, pork, duck, etc.) sought to determine the status of the cultured meat market and assess its global growth potential from 2022 to 2027.

Research highlights include:

  • The market is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.0%, reaching $19.8 million by 2027.
  • North America is expected to dominate the market for cultured meat in 2022 with total revenue of approximately $6.8 million. The dominance of North America is justified by the presence of a wide pool of market players researching synthetic meat.
  • Major market players include:  Memphis Meats,  Finless Foods,  and  Just Inc.
  • Cultured poultry is expected to hold the largest market share of 35.6% in 2022 in terms of revenue, followed by pork.
  • By 2027, total revenue from cultured poultry alone is expected to exceed $7.1 million. In addition, the poultry segment is estimated to increase at the highest CAGR of 4.4% during the forecast period.

The report also notes that the continuous increase in global meat consumption — for which projections remain strong through 2027 — presents huge growth prospects for the cultured meat market. This is derived, at least in part from the benefits associated with lab-grown meat, such as that reported by U.K.-based Stromness Academy of 96% fewer greenhouse gases, 96% less water, and 9% less land use. The full BCC Research report is available on its website.