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Life cycle assessment of cultured meat production

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Cultured meat is produced in vitro by using tissue engineering techniques. It is being developed as a poten-tially healthier and more efficient alternative to conventional meat. The goal of this study was to estimate energy use, land requirements, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for large-scale cultured meat produc-tion. Life cycle assessment (LCA) research method was used for assessing the environmental impacts along the production chain. Cyanobacteria hydrolysate was assumed to be used as the nutrient and energy source for muscle cell growth. The results showed that cultured meat production involves approximately 35-60% lower energy use, 80-95% lower GHG emissions and 98% lower land use compared to conventionally pro-duced meat products in Europe. Conventionally produced poultry had slightly lower energy use than cultured meat. It is concluded that the overall environmental impacts of cultured meat production are substantially lower than those of conventionally produced meat.
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7th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment in the Agri-Food Sector, 22nd - 24th
September 2010, Bari, Italy
Life cycle assessment of cultured meat production
Hanna L. Tuomisto1 and M. Joost Teixeira de Mattos2
1University of Oxford, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney, Oxon
OX13 5QL, UK, hanna.tuomisto@zoo.ox.ac.uk
2University of Amsterdam, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, Molecular Microbial Physiology
Group, NL-1018 WV Amsterdam, Netherlands
ABSTRACT
Cultured meat is produced in vitro by using tissue engineering techniques. It is being developed as a poten-
tially healthier and more efficient alternative to conventional meat. The goal of this study was to estimate
energy use, land requirements, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for large-scale cultured meat produc-
tion. Life cycle assessment (LCA) research method was used for assessing the environmental impacts along
the production chain. Cyanobacteria hydrolysate was assumed to be used as the nutrient and energy source
for muscle cell growth. The results showed that cultured meat production involves approximately 35-60%
lower energy use, 80-95% lower GHG emissions and 98% lower land use compared to conventionally pro-
duced meat products in Europe. Conventionally produced poultry had slightly lower energy use than cultured
meat. It is concluded that the overall environmental impacts of cultured meat production are substantially
lower than those of conventionally produced meat.
Keywords: in vitro meat, environmental impacts, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, land use
1. Introduction
Meat production is one of the major contributors to global environmental degradation.
Currently, livestock raised for meat uses 30% of global ice-free terrestrial land and produces
18 % of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which is more than the global transporta-
tion sector (FAO, 2006). Livestock production is also one of the main drivers of deforesta-
tion and degradation of wildlife habitats. Due to increasing population size and per capita
meat consumption in the developing world, global meat consumption is expected to double
between 1999 and 2050 (FAO, 2006). Such an increase will also double meat’s impacts on
the environment unless more efficient meat production methods are adopted.
One proposed method for reducing the negative environmental impacts of meat produc-
tion is to grow only animal muscle tissue in vitro, instead of growing whole animals
(Edelman et al., 2005). This technology is called cultured meat (or in vitro meat) produc-
tion, and it is currently in a research stage. The aim of this paper is to estimate the potential
environmental impacts of large-scale cultured meat production and compare them with con-
ventionally produced meat products.
2. Materials and methods
The goal of this study is to estimate the energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and land
use of cultured meat production. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology based on
ISO14044 guidelines is used (ISO, 2006). The functional unit (FU), towards which all the
impacts are allocated, is 1000 kg of cultured meat with dry matter (DM) content of 30% and
protein content of 19.1%.
The system boundaries cover the major processes from input production up to the factory
gate (Figure 1), including production of input materials and fuels, production of the feed-
stock, and growth of muscle cells. It is assumed that cyanobacteria hydrolysate is used as the
source of nutrients and energy for muscle cell production. Cyanobacteria are assumed to be
cultivated in an open pond. The protein content of cyanobacteria species varies generally be-
tween 50-70% of DM (Richmond, 1988), and in this study a protein content of 64% of DM
was assumed. After harvesting, the cyanobacteria biomass is sterilised and hydrolysed in
order to break down the cells. The stem cells are taken from an animal embryo. The quantity
of stem cells needed for producing 1000 kg cultured meat is relatively low, and therefore the
impacts related to the production of the stem cells are not included in this study. Engineered
Escherichia coli bacteria are used for the production of specific growth factors that induce
the stem cells to differentiate into muscle cells. The muscle cells are grown on a medium
composed of the cyanobacterial hydrolysate supplemented with the growth factors and vita-
mins in a bioreactor. The production of growth factors, vitamins and the animals used for
source of the stem cells are not included in this study, due to their minor contribution to the
results.
Figure 1: The system diagram of cultured meat production and the cyanobacteria biomass flows (kg
DM)
The primary energy conversion factors and GHG emission factors for energy sources are
based on the European Reference Life Cycle Database (ELCD, 2009) and Cherubini et al.
(2009). In this study it is assumed that diesel is used in the cultivation of cyanobacteria oper-
ations and transportation of the biomass, and electricity for sterilisation and muscle cell cul-
tivation.
It is assumed that cyanobacteria hydrosylate is used as an energy and nutrient source for
the growth and proliferation of the muscle cells. Nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria species are
assumed to be used. Cyanobacteria biomass is assumed to be cultivated in an open pond
(0.30 m deep) and harvested by using sedimentation and continuous vacuum belt filters. The
energy requirements used for cultivation of cyanobacteria, harvesting, fertiliser production
and construction and maintenance of the facility are based on the data from Chisti (2008).
Recorded annual production quantities of cyanobacteria vary globally between 7-110
tDM ha-1 (Richmond, 1988; Belay, 1997). In this paper cyanobacteria yield of 30 tDM ha-1
year-1 and 25 g m-2 d-1 are assumed.
It is assumed that the cyanobacteria biomass is transported without drying for 50 km, as-
suming an energy need of 2.6 MJ t-1 km-1 (Liu and Ma, 2009).
Table 1 shows the specifications used for sterilisation and the cultivation processes. The
volume of the culture is assumed to be 30 m3, by assuming maximum muscle cell density of
1*1010 cells dm-3 and weight of a cell 1*10-12 kg.
It is assumed that the bioreactor is made from stainless steel. Production of 1 kg stainless
steel requires 30.6 MJ primary energy and emits 3.38 kg CO2-eq kg-1 (ELCD, 2009). The
bioreactor is assumed to be used for 20 years.
Table 1: Specifications for sterilisation of cyanobacteria biomass and cultivation of muscle cells.
Sterilisation
Method: autoclaving
volume 1500 l, power 140 kW, temperature 220°C, time 20 min
Muscle cell cultivation
Method: cylinder stirred-tank bioreactor
volume 1000 l, height 1.72 m, diameter 0.86 m, weight 93 kg, 80% maximum filling capacity, cell density
1*1010 cells dm-3, time per run 60 days, temperature 37°C, rotation 100 rpm, aeration 0.05 vvm, power input
for agitation 25 W m-3 (Varley and Birch, 1999), power requirement for aeration was 16 W m-3 (Harding et
al., 2007)
3. Results
Total energy use and GHG emissions of producing 1000 kg cultured meat are presented
in Table 2. The energy use for producing cyanobacteria accounts for approximately 8% of
total energy use and 15% of GHG emissions. The cultivation process of muscle cells has the
greatest contribution to the results, accounting for 80% of total energy use and 74% of total
GHG emissions. Sterilisation of the cyanobacteria biomass accounts for approximately 11%
of total energy use and 9% of GHG emissions. Transportation of the cyanobacteria biomass
to the cultured meat production facility has only a minor contribution (less than 2%) to both
of the impacts.
The land requirements for producing feedstock for cultured meat production vary accord-
ing to the location of the facility. Here it is estimated that the world average land requirement
for cultivation of cyanobacteria is approximately 240 m2 ha FU-1. In the highest-yielding re-
gions, the land requirement may be as low as 120 m2 FU-1, while in the lowest-yielding re-
gions the land requirement may be as high as 480 m2 FU-1.
Table 2: Primary energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of producing a Functional Unit
(FU) of 1000 kg cultured meat
Primary Energy GHG
emissions
GJ FU
-1 kg CO2-eq FU-1
CULTIVATION OF CYANOBACTERIA
Construction and maintenance 0.68 66
Cultivation 1.49 145
Harvesting 0.05 5
TOTAL 2.22 217
BIOMASS TRANSPORTATION 0.37 26
STERILISATION 2.87 144
MUSCLE CELL CULTIVATION
Steel production 0.98 108
Aeration 7.89 396
Rotation 12.32 618
TOTAL 21.19 1122
TOTAL 26.64 1508
4. Discussion
The results show that cultured meat production emits substantially less GHG emissions
and requires only a fraction of land compared to conventional meat production in Europe
(Table 3). Energy requirements of cultured meat production are lower compared to beef,
sheep and pork, but higher compared to poultry production. As a comparison with cultivated
Atlantic salmon (Pelletier and Tyedmers, 2007), cultured meat has approximately 36% lower
energy input and 53% lower GHG emissions.
Table 3: Environmental impacts of producing 1000 kg of edible meat (calculated from original data)
Source Energy use GHG emissions Land use
GJ t CO
2-eq ha
Cultured meat (this study) 26.64 1.5 0.02
Beef
Casey and Holden (2006) 55
Kumm (2002) 1.35
Williams et al. (2006) 71.83 40.97 5.96
Elferink and Nonhebel (2007) 7.52
Lamb
Williams et al. (2006) 50.71 38.2 3.03
Pork
Kumm (2002) 1.57
Basset-Mens and van der Werf (2005) 47.59 6.88 1.63
Williams et al. (2006) 37.48 14.25 1.66
Elferink and Nonhebel (2007) 2.24
Dalgaard et al. (2007) 8.46 2.04
Poultry
Williams et al. (2006) 23.3 8.90 1.24
Elferink and Nonhebel (2007) 1.46
The energy input calculations of cultured meat production in this study are based on
many assumptions, and therefore, have high uncertainty. Energy consumption for cultured
meat production may be higher if additional processing is required for improving the texture
of meat. However, the efficiency of both cultivation of cyanobacteria and muscle cell culti-
vation can be improved by technology development. For example, closed bioreactors for
cyanobacteria and microalgae production could improve the efficiency of biomass produc-
tion (Ugwu et al., 2008).
Table 3 shows that the energy input for cultured meat production is 63, 47 and 37 %
lower compared to conventionally produced beef, sheep and pork, respectively, but requires
14 % more energy compared to conventionally produced poultry. However, energy input
alone does not necessarily provide a sufficient indicator about the energy performance, if the
opportunity costs of land use are not taken into account (Tuomisto et al., 2009). Cultured
meat production requires only about 2% of the land area that is used for producing the same
mass of conventionally produced poultry meat. Therefore, more land could be used for
bioenergy production and it can be argued that the overall energy efficiency of cultured meat
would be more favourable.
As the majority of GHG emissions during the production of cultured meat are associated
with the use of fuels and electricity, the emissions could be reduced by using renewable en-
ergy sources. In conventional meat production, the potential for reducing GHG emissions is
more limited, because most of the emissions are due to methane from manure and ruminants’
enteric fermentation, and nitrous oxide from soil. The replacement of conventionally pro-
duced meat by cultured meat could potentially contribute to the mitigation of GHG emis-
sions, because instead of clearing more land for agriculture, large land areas could be refor-
ested or used for other carbon sequestration purposes.
Cultured meat production could also have potential benefits for wildlife conservation for
two main reasons: i) it reduces pressure for converting natural habitats to agricultural land,
and ii) it provides an alternative way of producing meat from endangered and rare species
that are currently over-hunted or – fished for food. Cultured meat production also has sub-
stantially lower nutrient losses to waterways compared to conventionally produced meat,
since wastewaters from cyanobacteria production can be more efficiently controlled com-
pared to run-offs from agricultural fields.
This study concentrated only on the production chain from input production up to the fac-
tory or farm gate, and therefore, does not provide the full comparison of the impacts during
the whole life cycle of the products. However, it can be estimated that the relative impacts of
cultured meat maybe even lower if the whole product life cycles were compared. The trans-
portation requirements for cultured meat are likely to be lower, since whole animals are not
transported and the production sites may locate closer to the consumers. Also refrigeration
needs may be reduced, since cultured meat would potentially have less microbial contami-
nants compared to slaughtered meat. Further research is needed for estimating the total envi-
ronmental impacts of cultured meat production during the whole life cycle from production
to the consumer.
5. Acknowledgements
We thank New Harvest for funding the project.
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... Several studies indicated that meat substitutes had a lower environmental impact than meat (Håkansson et al. 2005;Nonhebel and Raats 2007;Raats 2007;Blonk et al. 2008;Finnigan et al. 2010;Head et al. 2011;Tuomisto and de Mattos 2011;Berardy 2012;Oonincx and de Boer 2012;Van Huis et al. 2013). However, limitations of transportation systems or regional production specifics, used in global supply chains, could increase environmental impacts for soy and milk products. ...
... The LCA relies on data collected from multiple sources. It uses Ecoinvent 3 and LCA Food DK databases to identify the impact of raw materials growing and harvesting (Nielsen et al. 2003;Weidema et al. 2013); published data on meat substitute production, processing, and environmental impact (Berk 1992;Berlin 2002;Raats 2007;Blonk et al. 2008;Dalgaard et al. 2008;Finnigan et al. 2010;Tuomisto and De Mattos 2010;Head et al. 2011;Tuomisto and de Mattos 2011;van Zeist et al. 2012;Oonincx and de Boer 2012;Van Huis et al. 2013;Deng et al. 2013); and primary data of highmoisture extrusion processes (Table 1) from the German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL e.V.). The same global average databases, aimed for allocation, are used for the comparison analysis. ...
... The LCA relies on data collected from multiple sources. It uses Ecoinvent 3 and LCA Food DK databases to identify the impact of raw materials growing and harvesting (Nielsen et al. 2003;Weidema et al. 2013); published data on meat substitute production, processing, and environmental impact (Berk 1992;Berlin 2002;Raats 2007;Blonk et al. 2008;Dalgaard et al. 2008;Finnigan et al. 2010;Tuomisto and De Mattos 2010;Head et al. 2011;Tuomisto and de Mattos 2011;van Zeist et al. 2012;Oonincx and de Boer 2012;Van Huis et al. 2013;Deng et al. 2013); and primary data of highmoisture extrusion processes (Table 1) from the German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL e.V.). The same global average databases, aimed for allocation, are used for the comparison analysis. ...
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The whole life of methanol fuel, produced by microalgae biomass which is a kind of renewable energy, is evaluated by using a method of life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA has been used to identify and quantify the environment emissions and energy efficiency of the system throughout the whole life cycle, including microalgae cultivation, methanol conversion, transport, and end-use. Energy efficiency, defined as the ratio of the energy of methanol produced to the total required energy, is 1.24, the results indicate that it is plausible as an energy producing process. The environmental impact loading of microalgae-based fuel methanol is 0.187mPET2000 in contrast to 0.828mPET2000 for gasoline. The effect of photochemical ozone formation is the highest of all the calculated categorization impacts of the two fuels. Utilization of microalgae an raw material of producing methanol fuel is beneficial to both production of renewable fuels and improvement of the ecological environment. This Fuel methanol is friendly to the environment, which should take an important role in automobile industry development and gasoline fuel substitute.
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Current intensive pig production is often associated with environmental burdens. However, very few studies deal with the environmental performance of both current and alternative systems of pig production. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the environmental impacts of three contrasting pig production systems using the life cycle assessment method and to identify hot spots for each system. The scenarios compared were conventional good agricultural practice (GAP) according to French production rules, a French quality label scenario called red label (RL) and a French organic scenario called organic agriculture (OA). For each of the three scenarios a “favourable” and an “unfavourable” variant was defined; these variants were used as indicators of uncertainty with respect to key parameters for technical performance and emissions of pollutants. The environmental categories assessed were: eutrophication, climate change, acidification, terrestrial toxicity, energy use, land use and pesticide use. Two functional units (FU) were used to express impacts: 1 kg of pig produced and 1 ha of land surface used. The scenarios were examined with particular emphasis on their contribution to eutrophication and acidification. Given this perspective, the RL scenario can be an interesting alternative to GAP on the condition that its emission of greenhouse gases can be reduced. The results for OA were very dependent on the choice of the FU. Per kg of pig, eutrophication and acidification were similar for OA and GAP, while OA had less eutrophication and acidification than GAP when expressed per ha. For the three scenarios, environmental hot spots and important margins of improvement were identified. Finally, the uncertainty analysis indicated that efforts should be made to produce more reliable estimations of emission factors for NO3, NH3 and N2O in the field.
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Production of meat requires substantial amounts of feed grains which in turn require vast amounts of land. Future population growth and increase in consumption will raise the demand for meat and with it the land required for meat production. This paper analyses the various factors that affect land requirements for meat production. Meat production by Dutch broilers, pigs and beef cattle on their current feeds are compared and options for change are evaluated with respect to their nutritional needs. Differences in land requirements of a factor of 3 were found between different agricultural production systems and feeds as well as between types of livestock. It is shown that broilers have the lowest land requirement while beef cattle have the highest. The variation in feed crop yields between agricultural systems is discussed. It is concluded that due to the large variation within the system there is potential for reduction in the land requirements for meat production.
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ALTHOUGH MEAT has enjoyed sustained popularity as a foodstuff, consumers have expressed growing concern over some consequences of meat consumption and production. These include nutrition-related diseases