Food Safety and Nutrition Metrics (Chicken)

In order to ensure that we set audacious but achievable goals in this prize competition, we need to both establish a baseline for conventional chicken production and know how plant- and cell-based chicken alternatives are currently performing.

As you can see in the chart below, there are a number of gaps (the red dots) in our research, which we hope the community can fill in.

For plant- and cell-based chicken alternatives, we’re missing calorie counts.

We would also welcome additional input on the nutritional value of cell-based chicken alternatives.

@jmdbhawna25, @Elliot_Swartz, @BruceGerman, would you be able to advise us on some of these metrics?

Hi Nick,

Right now, there are no publicly available data for nutritional information on cell-based meat products. Although we expect the macros to be identical and it’s likely companies will aim for them to be identical (perhaps improved in the long term), there exists a possibility of this not being true and medium composition can influence other nutritional features.

For caloric conversions in cell-based meat, an estimated number (which is largely derived from statements made by Memphis Meats) is 3:1. However, there is no publicly available data for this number either. We are aiming to collect this data as part of a collaborative study involving several companies in this sector, but for now this remains a question mark as well.

There are some other numbers looking at conversion ratios based off of raw materials. According to AT Kearney, around 1.5 kg of soy, peas, maize, and red sugar beets is required to produce 1 kg of cultured meat leading to a conversion rate of around 70 percent. For plant-based meats, around 1.3 kg of arable crops are required to produce 1 kg of plant-based meat leading to a conversion rate of around 75 percent.

This is compared with 7 kg of grain in dry weight to produce 1 kg of
live weight for bovine in feedlots, around 4 kg of grain in dry weight per 1 kg of live weight for pigs, and for poultry it is just over 2 kg in dry weight. However, as this is live weight and not meat, all byproducts—which account for about 40 percent of live weight—must be subtracted. Hence, in the example of poultry, around 3 kg of grain are required to produce 1 kg of meat.

Hope this helps

This is extremely helpful, @Elliot_Swartz, thank you for this insight and for directing us to this resource. A few follow up questions:

  1. You mentioned that medium composition can influence other nutritional features. Can you elaborate on this a bit more?
  2. Which aspects of poultry do you think can be most improved, from a nutritional standpoint?

@kbehrendt, @eshcharb, @Rachel, do you have any insight on this topic?

  1. There are a lot of options here, which I will eventually cover in my own writing. A lot of it may be influenced also by the degree to which genetic engineering can be employed in a product. For instance, you can knock-in fatty acid enzymes from other species in order to increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in a product (Enhanced Production of Docosahexaenoic Acid in Mammalian Cells), following feeding the cells with alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid included in many basal cell culture media. Cholesterol is also something that can be readily tuned based on media.

The other things rely on fortification. I’d recommend ReThinkX report, which mentions fortification ( Vitamins, iron, trace metals, are all added to cell culture media. You can read on the commonly added ones here ( These are all easy to fortify products or make more bioavailable.

  1. Aside from fortification and the other options above, chicken is generally a healthy product I believe. Especially in the eyes of the consumer. When we talk about improving health for replacing chicken/fish with cell-based or plant-based options, we mainly focus on the elimination of antibiotics/antibiotic resistance contribution, decreased foodborne illness, and decreased risks of xoonotic disease (eg avian flu).

@Kathleen_Hamrick not sure where my comment went but posting again:

  1. Media composition can impact things in tandem with genetic engineering. For instance, knock-in of fatty acid desaturase enzymes can bias fatty acid pathways for omega-3 accumulation following addition of alpha-linoleic acid (essential fatty acid usually included in basal cell culture media) to the media. (Enhanced Production of Docosahexaenoic Acid in Mammalian Cells). It may also be possible to do this without genetic engineering, but likely to a lesser extent. Cholesterol content can likely be tuned as well. Aside from these options, fortification is a big advantage. Increasing the amount or bioavailability of vitamin content, iron, or other micronutrients can all be done via the addition of these components to the basal media ( or end product itself. The recent ReThinkX report has some info on fortification as well (

  2. Chicken doesn’t have to many things wrong with it, nutritionally, I believe (more importantly, what consumers believe). Fatty acid content alteration or fortification could still be done here, though.