- Two facilities in India will soon pursue research into cell-based meat, with the first phase of the Centre of Excellence in Cellular Agriculture to open in Maharashtra next year. The center is a partnership between the government-funded Institute of Chemical Technology Mumbai and The Good Food Institute India, the institute said in a release.
- The second facility, to be based in Hyderabad, will benefit from a recent $640,000 grant from the Indian government's Department of Biotechnology to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and National Research Centre on Meat.
- The group said the grant is one of the largest investments in cell-based meat research ever made by a government, and is an indication India plans to make "visionary investments in the nutrition security of a growing global population."
India has significant incentives for making these investments in research centers and supporting the development of lab-grown meat. The country seems to have the political will to encourage cellular agriculture. With a population of about 1.34 billion, it will likely need more protein products to keep pace as recent reports have warned that major changes are needed to feed the world's population by 2050.
India also has good access to biopharmaceutical and mechanical engineering expertise, Food Navigator noted, two additional assets when it comes to developing and scaling up cultured meat products. However, the country previously lacked capital, consumer research, entrepreneurial efforts and a regulatory framework, the Good Food Institute said. Public-private partnerships could be the impetus necessary to get research facilities up and running. With the centers established, affordable cell-based meat products could soon come to consumers in India and around the world.
While a large proportion of the Indian population is vegetarian — some sources put it at about 30% — more consumers there are eating meat as their standard of living rises. Since much more land and water are required to produce chicken and mutton — two popular protein sources in India — the sustainability challenges across such a huge country are clear.
Some of these same challenges face the lab-grown meat industry in the U.S. and elsewhere, although the private sector has stepped up in recent years to finance a number of startups in the sector, including Memphis Meats, JUST and Singapore's Shiok Meats.
According to the Good Food Institute, investors put more than $16 billion into U.S. plant-based and cell-based meat companies in the past 10 years — $13 billion of it in 2017 and 2018. A dozen global cell-based meat companies raised $50 million in 2018, the group said, which was double the investment in three previous years.
Still, the U.S. could lag behind on the race to bring cell-based products to market without more government research funding, Jessica Almy, the institute's director of policy, previously told Food Dive.
"We know that when we invest a dollar in agricultural research in this country it yields $20 of economic activity across the board," she said at the Institute of Food Technologists conference last year. "I think it’s reasonable to foresee that [cell-cultured meat] could be even more profitable."
Other obstacles for the U.S. lab-grown meat industry include legal and regulatory oversight and high production costs. Those issues don't seem to be as problematic in India, which may be another reason why these two research centers are taking shape in that country now.