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Japanese company slashes lab-grown meat protein cost by 90%

October 2, 2023

Major Japanese engineering company, Hitachi Zosen, will start selling synthetic protein to artificial meat producers as soon as 2025, Nikkei has reported, using a process that reduces production costs by about 90%.

The artificial meat protein will be made using a method developed by NUProtein, a startup based in Tokushima city, Japan. Hitachi Zosen also streamlined a step in the production process to further drive down costs.

Substitute meat is either made from plant sources, such as soybeans, or grown from animal cells. NUProtein instead combines mRNA from animal DNA with wheat germ to produce the protein.

The wheat germ needs to be mixed in a special solution to produce an extract with a precise blend of ingredients. Hitachi Zosen has experience making machines capable of measuring and adding components in exact amounts for making drinks and seasoning. Leaning on that know-how, Hitachi Zosen mechanized the solution-making process for the wheat germ.

The lab-grown meat market is expected to grow to US$25 billion in 2030, according to McKinsey & Co. In Singapore, which has pioneered cultured meat, sandwiches made with lab-grown chicken meat sell for about US$13.

Hitachi Zosen aims to start selling its synthetic protein to artificial meat makers in Singapore during the fiscal year starting April 2025 at the earliest. The company is looking to launch similar businesses in the USA and Japan.

Lab-grown meat first debuted in 2013 as a hamburger patty that took two years to produce at a cost of more than US$300,000. Now, cultured patties can be made at a cost of hundreds of dollars, but are still too expensive for typical households. Hitachi Zosen and NUProtein's process could potentially bring the cost per patty to the lower double digits.

Artificial meat is seen as a solution for combating food insecurity, since it eliminates the need for raising livestock. Animals raised for meat also produce greenhouse gas, and it takes more time to produce and deliver the meat from livestock compared with lab-grown meat.

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