Report identifies top five cultured meat companies
A new report from Cambridge-based IDTechEx has identified the world’s top five cultured meat companies. Here, New Food outlines their efforts to produce ‘green’ and ethical meat products that could potentially revolutionise the food industry.
‘Cultured meat’ is a meat-like product, grown in a lab from cells extracted from animals without requiring them to be slaughtered. This new means of producing ‘meat’ is exciting the food sector, given its potential to facilitate meat eating, without the environmental and ethical issues that surround conventional meat industries. Recent years have seen startups around the world racing to bring the first cultured meat products to market.
A new report from IDTechEx identifies five companies at the forefront of this cultured meat revolution.
The company that kicked off the trend was Mosa Meat, founded in 2013 by Dr Mark Post of Maastricht University. In August 2013, Dr Post cooked and tasted the world’s first cell-cultured hamburger in front of a crowd of journalists in London, UK. The hamburger was produced from bovine muscle cells grown in the lab and reportedly cost over €250,000 to produce. Luckily, things have moved on since then, with Mosa Meat currently claiming it can grow a ‘beef’ patty for around €9.
To grow its beef patties, Mosa Meat takes myosatellite cells (muscle stem cells) from live cattle via a small biopsy. A bioreactor then proliferates them, creating trillions of myosatellite cells, which then differentiate into muscle cells by changing their growth medium. These form myotubes – primitive muscle fibres less than 0.3mm in length – which are placed in a gel that aids their formation into more substantial muscle fibres, which can then be harvested as meat. The company is aiming for a small-scale commercial release within the next few years, following scale up of production facilities and regulatory approval.
Harnessing the might of US capital, Memphis Meats is a Californian cultured meat startup founded by cardiologist Dr Uma Valeti and cell biologist Dr Nicholas Genovese in 2015. Similarly, Memphis Meats uses myosatellite cells as a base from which to grow its meat products, but this company has produced cultured chicken nuggets and beef meatballs, as well as duck tissue.
In 2020, the company completed a $161 million Series B fundraising, by far the largest funding round ever completed by a cultured meat company, which they intend to use to construct a pilot production facility. With over $181 million in private funding from backers, including Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and meat industry giant Tyson Foods, many are expecting Memphis Meats to be the first company to successfully release a commercially-available cultured meat product.
Aleph Farms is an Israeli startup developing cultured meat products that go a step further. Rather than growing “unstructured” meat products such as burgers and nuggets, the firm is creating cultured steaks using proprietary 3D technology.
The process involves using a specially designed scaffold to co-culture muscle, fat and connective tissue, alongside vasculature to produce a fully formed steak within three to four weeks. Aleph Farms claims its technologies allow several types of cells to grow together into a complex shape, a feat that has hitherto been a major hurdle in developing structured meat products. The company is aiming to reach the market with a limited launch within three to four years.
This San Diego startup has big plans for commercialising a large-scale cultured seafood products facility.
Its planned five phases start with R&D and small-scale pilot testing, before moving onto market research testing and culminating in 150,000-square foot facilities. Each will produce up to 18 million pounds of cultured seafood, ranging from finfish, to crustaceans and molluscs; the equivalent of 72 million four-ounce seafood fillets.
In June 2020, the company expanded its administrative, R&D and manufacturing space with a new facility that represents a six-fold increase over its current space. The larger facility will include a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) pilot-scale food production plant for the commercial production of its various cell-based seafood products.
BlueNalu intends to produce seafood from species that are overfished, primarily imported, contain high levels of pollutants such as mercury, and/or are difficult to farm raise, with the initial focus being on seafood that commands a premium price with strong consumer familiarity. The company plans to release products into a test market in two to three years, before opening its first large-scale production facility within five years.
This Californian startup is currently focusing on cultured bluefin tuna – an expensive and endangered animal that cannot be farmed but is highly sought after.
Finless Foods believes that there are several advantages to developing cultured fish meat compared with cultured mammal or bird tissue. Fish have a much lower body temperature than mammals or birds, so cells are cultured at 24-26°C. Fish cells are also more tolerant to temperature shifts, this reduces energy costs and simplifies production. Creating an accurate texture is also easier with cultured fish meat. Fish naturally has a thin, sheet-like texture, which is simpler to recreate through culture than the complex 3D structure of animal muscle.
Read more in the IDTechEx Research report, Plant-based and Cultured Meat 2020-2030.