A Cultivated Meat Company's Perspective on "Blood Free”

26 Apr 2024

A Cultivated Meat Company's Perspective on "Blood Free”

   A new show about cultivated meat, which is made from animal cells and gaining attention for its sustainability, has been released on Disney+. It was written by Soo-yeon Lee, who wrote “Stranger,” and stars Hyo-joo Han from “Moving” and Ji-hoon Ju from “Kingdom.” We took a look at how realistic the portrayal of cultivated meat in this show is, so you can enjoy the show more. After all, you know you can eat as much as you know!

1. Is culture media full of germs?

   In the show, a rumor that culture media from BF (Blood Free), a cultivated meat conglomerate led by Ja-yu Yoon (played by Han), is full of germs spreads quickly. Although it puts Yoon in a tough spot, in reality, it is simply a rumor. Culture media provides nutrients for cells to grow and contains nutrients such as protein, fat, vitamins, amino acids, sugars, sodium, and minerals. If culture media gets even slightly contaminated with bacteria, the cells can’t grow and die eventually, which makes keeping it hygienic essential. In other words, if culture media is full of bacteria, cells can't grow into cultivated meat.

    Additionally, the chances of cultivated meat getting contaminated with microorganisms during production are extremely low. From cell isolation to cell culture to harvesting and post-processing, equipment and processes during those steps are similar to those used in pharmaceutical production. There are also precedents of Singapore and the United States, the developed countries with high food safety standards, recognizing the safety of cultivated meat by approving its sale.

2. Is it possible to make cultivated meat by dropping a bit of culture media onto cells?

   In the scene where the key BF employees realize that the bacteria rumor has spread throughout media coverage, cultivated meat production is depicted as applying a few drops of culture media to a square chunk of what looks like meat with a dropper. While it’s true that cells grow from nutrients in culture media, it takes much more than a few drops of it to produce cultivated meat. In reality, we grow numerous tiny cells in sterilized tanks (bioreactors), flasks, or Petri dishes with plenty of culture media. We also need to change culture media periodically, as the cells need a good supply of nutrients to grow and turn into fat or muscle tissue. It takes quite a lot of work!

3. Does cultivated meat require less land than conventional meat?

   At the launch of new products, Yoon says that cultivated meat requires only 1% of the land needed to raise and feed livestock to produce the same amount of meat. According to a 2023 report(1) by the global nonprofit Good Food Institute, cultivated meat requires 90% less land than conventional beef, assuming renewable energy is used to produce and distribute cultivated meat. In the same condition, water use is expected to be 66% lower, and the carbon footprint (the total amount of greenhouse gases produced directly and indirectly) is projected to be up to 92% lower. The day is coming when we can make the same amount of meat with fewer resources while preserving the environment.

   The release of a TV show about cultivated meat is a testament to the growing social interest in this field. It seems highly feasible that the production companies (ARC Media, ACE FACTORY, and Blitzway Studios), and the distributor (Disney+) saw the growing public interest and coverage of cultivated meat and decided they could create a buzz with this topic. We look forward to the stories Yoon and BF will deliver in the remaining episodes and how much more public interest they will generate in cultivated meat.


1. Good Food Institute, 2023, The Environmental Impact of Cultivated Meat Production   


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