SuperMeat’s Cultivated Chicken Outperforms Most Efficient Farm Animal in Carbon Footprint Study

Chicken is considered the most efficient source of land-animal protein compared to beef and pork due to its lower feed conversion ratio and smaller environmental footprint. However, cultivated chicken presents an opportunity for even greater sustainability.

A new life cycle analysis (LCA) from the Israeli startup SuperMeat, conducted by independent research consultancy CE Delft about the environmental impact of its 100% cultivated chicken vs. conventional chicken, found a 47% reduction in carbon emissions when the production used renewable energy.

The LCA focused on large-scale production anticipated at the start of the next decade in a scenario where SuperMeat’s production integrates renewable energy within its facility, supply chain, utilities, and medium. Meanwhile, chicken production was based on obtaining soy from deforestation-free supply chains and utilizing renewable electricity during production.

A new life cycle analysis (LCA) from the Israeli startup SuperMeat, conducted by independent research consultancy CE Delft about the environmental impact of its 100% cultivated chicken vs. conventional chicken, found a 47% reduction in carbon emissions.
© SuperMeat

The LCA also shows that even using the standard US electricity grid and a non-optimized supply chain, SuperMeat’s production process would still lead to a 27% reduction in carbon footprint compared to the most optimistic benchmarks for conventional chicken.

When looking at the carbon footprint of the startup’s cell-based chicken production, 72% is due to the culture medium, 8% to energy usage, and 20% to other consumables.

A continuous bioprocess is key

Other CE Delft cultivated chicken life cycle analyses have found a similar emissions pattern between cultivated and conventional chicken. However, SuperMeat claims its efficient continuous bioprocess, currently operational at its pilot facility, in addition to reusing spent cell culture media, favors sustainability and leads to the lowest carbon footprint documented.

“By optimizing cell densities and reusing spent media, SuperMeat achieves an efficient feed-to-meat conversion rate. Furthermore, the strategic use of embryonic stem cells reduces the facility’s cooling requirements, allowing for passive temperature management,” reads the paper.

Hen running on grass

Land use and other findings

In addition to the carbon footprint, the LCA shows a 90% reduction in land use compared to chicken production.

SuperMeat uses 66% of its land for culture medium, 29% for energy, and 4% for utilities. The land is used primarily for agricultural production and renewable energy generation, which impacts biodiversity and deforestation. SuperMeat’s chicken reduces land use by using more efficient feed and feedstocks.

Other measures include a 64% reduction in fine particulate matter (PM) formation against the projected emissions for conventional chicken, set by the 2030 benchmark.

Particulate matter emissions, including primary and secondary sources, are a significant health risk due to their link to respiratory diseases. In traditional animal agriculture, using fertilizers and manure management are leading causes of elevated PM emissions.

Additionally, according to the analysis, the company’s cultivated chicken offers an 85% reduction in terrestrial acidification, which can degrade soil quality and disrupt ecosystems through manure application and fertilizer use, and a 68% reduction in feed requirements, demonstrating superior efficiency in transforming feed into meat.

A cultivated chicken breast by SuperMeat.
© SuperMeat

A sustainable future

Life cycle assessments are a valuable tool for companies in this industry to assess the environmental impact of their production methods and pinpoint areas for improvement.

For example, SuperMeat’s blue water use is 32% higher than that of conventional chicken because feed ingredients comprise 85% of its total water consumption. However, high water usage figures usually refer to green water, which wasn’t assessed in this study, indicating that SuperMeat may have a lower green water footprint. SuperMeat plans to source from water-efficient suppliers to reduce blue water impact and prioritize water conservation.

Regarding renewable power, SuperMeat’s product has a higher Cumulative Energy Demand (CED) than conventional chicken but significantly reduces the need for agricultural land. The increase in CED is due to the energy required to replicate animal life processes in an industrial setting. The Israeli startup says that by using renewable sources, cultivated meat can have a lower ecological footprint and be more sustainable.

The Good Food Institute Europe commented on SuperMeat’s LCA: “While much research is still needed before innovations such as continuous processes can effectively scale, such developments are hugely promising and underline the potential of this game-changing food. To deliver these on a time scale that would allow cultivated meat to move the needle on pressing problems such as food insecurity and climate change, public funding is keenly needed.”

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