A Modest Beginning
“Meat sludge” is the most basic and unstructured output of cell based meat. What about flavor, shape, and texture? Well, that’s where things get difficult.
2019 may have marked a realization from cell based meat companies to start with “hybrid lab grown meat” products blended with plant based fats and proteins. This is likely what we’ll see in the marketplace prior to a “100% cell based” product.
- JUST is set for a small scale launch of cell based chicken nuggets in 2020. The nuggets will primarily be cell based chicken blended with a small amount of JUST proprietary mung bean protein isolate.
- Future Meat Technologies announced plans to launch a hybrid product that blends plant proteins with lab-grown fat in 2021.
A Controversial Product Receives the Cell Based Treatment
The pricey and contentious French delicacy, Foie Gras, has an inherently unstructured texture making the product a good fit for cell based replication.
- Integriculture successfully demoed their cell based foie gras with plans to launch in restaurants in 2021 and in retails stores in 2023. https://cellbased.link/mrw
Total Tissue Engineering Investments to Date:
Can you GO from sludge to structured?
I’m expecting to see more structured meat prototypes in the upcoming year with full cuts of meat and fish. 2019 ended with hype from companies raising capital and preparing for structured meat prototypes in 2020.
- Meatable completed 2019 with a $10 million funding round and announced an anticipated fully structured pork chop prototype for the end of 2020. https://cellbased.link/j34
- BlueNalu completed 2019 with a successful demo of a whole muscle prototype of Yellowtail Amberjack. https://cellbased.link/7y3
- Aleph Farms completed a $12 million funding round in 2019 and will focus on developing lab grown steak steak using technology that enables the growth of four types of animal cells including muscle fibers, blood vessels, fat, and connective tissue to create whole meat cuts. http://cellbased.link/a7
Overcoming (Technical) Challenges
Cell Culture Media (reminder: this is what feeds the cells)
Almost all 33 lab grown meat companies around the globe stated they are working towards the development of a cell culture media that does not include fetal bovine serum. The question remains: Which companies will develop a cell culture medium that:
- works efficiently
- allows for viable cell proliferation
- can be produced at a cost that is low enough to enable eventual price parity with conventional meat
Scaffolding (reminder: used to create structure)
From corn starch fibers to grass, we saw a lot of research at the University level in bio-degradable scaffolding. Perhaps the most compelling came out of Harvard University where researchers discovered a process called Immersion Rotary Jet-Spinning, which can be applied to spin plant fibers to create a viable scaffold structure for meat. https://cellbased.link/c4301
In 2019, Israeli based company, Aleph Farms joined forces with Russian based 3D Bioprinting Solutions to successfully print lab grown meat on board the Russian segment of the International Space Station. The bio-printer uses magnetic force to aggregate the cells into small scale tissues. We are expecting to see more crossover within the 3D printing industry and lab grown meat as bio-printing technology becomes part of the production process for more robust, thicker cuts of structured meat like steaks. https://cellbased.link/y0o
Research out of Tufts University found a potential benefit of adding myoglobin (a heme molecule) to cell culture media for increased cell proliferation. Myoglobin could be produced through recombinant protein technology, which may be a necessary step in the creation of cell culture media. https://cellbased.link/5dd
Waste Build Up
Japan based Integriculture, proposed a solution to the problem of metabolic waste build-up that can occur within the closed system of cellular agriculture. Integriculture’s patented CulNet technology, is a system of three tanks with three different cell types simulating an environment that mimics the interaction between cells as they would behave in the animal’s body. Integriculture’s CulNet system provides an advantage by recycling serum and reducing waste build up as one tissue produces waste that another type of tissue can re-uptake and reuse as food.
USA Regulation @ a Standstill
In 2019, The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a formal agreement to share joint regulatory oversight of cell based meat. According to the agreement, “FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to FSIS oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. FSIS will oversee the production and labeling of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.” http://cellbased.link/usda-93dcf
Meanwhile in Missouri, if you write meat on a product sold in Missouri that is not derived from livestock or poultry you could be looking at up to one year in jail, a fine up to $2,000, or both. The law will not apply if there is a prominent statement on the front of the package that the product is “plant-based,” “veggie,” “lab-grown,” “lab-created,” or a comparable qualifier; AND a prominent statement on the package that the product is “made from plants,” “grown in a lab,” or a comparable disclosure.” Other states are following suit, but food safety and labeling are regulated at the federal level, so this is mostly noise at this time.
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