Cultured meat is the next big thing in the food industry – and the highlight of this year’s Anuga Show, which hosted ProVeg’s New Food Conference. Food technology pioneers have provided insight into the evolving cultured food industry, which will soon produce meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs without the need for animals.
In the future, it is possible that nine billion people will be able to enjoy steak, fish and cheese without harming animals, the environment or their health. This is the vision of nearly 20 industry representatives, investors and scientists who spoke at the New Food Conference (NFC) in Cologne on October 10-11. Food organization ProVeg hosted the international conference for the first time as a hybrid online and in-person event, as part of Anuga, the world’s largest food fair.
Cellular agriculture seems poised to make the vision of “animal products without animals” possible. From animal cells or microorganisms such as yeasts, bacteria and fungi; products are created that are completely identical to those in conventional breeding, except that they are produced not by the body of an animal but in a bioreactor – using revolutionary biotechnology.
The NFC gave visitors a taste of the future: David Brandes of Peace of Meat, recently acquired by MeaTech, served meatballs made from a mixture of soy and cultured chicken fat. The Belgian start-up extracts specific cells from chicken eggs and processes them using bioreactors until a fat mass is formed which gives the taste of chicken. The results generated a lot of interest – during the presentation, photographers and camera teams formed a crowd in front of the stage.
From legal approval to Hollywood stars
While cultured meat offers world-changing possibilities, so far only Eat Just Chicken Nuggets are commercially available, and only in Singapore. For this to change, a few obstacles still need to be overcome. “Legal approval is a very long and expensive process,” Mosa Meat’s Robert E Jones said during his NFC speech. The Netherlands-based company introduced the first burger grown in 2014 and has since raised millions, with Leonardo di Caprio recently becoming one of its top investors.
Large-scale production is currently also too expensive compared to conventional meat, and the technology still has a way to go before price parity can be reached. Another central challenge is to move beyond minced or blended meat to the production of whole pieces – or fish fillets, a topic Dr Sebastian Rakers has covered. Raker’s company, Bluu Bioscience, is the first in Europe to specialize in the development of farmed fish, with products slated for market launch in 2023.
Young people are open to cultured meat
Experts are certain that approvals will come and technical challenges will be resolved. But will consumers buy cultivated products? “The younger and better informed generation is very open to them,” explains Mathilde Alexandre, who coordinates the CellAg project at ProVeg International. Acceptance is already particularly high in Israel, which, along with Singapore, is the biggest hotspot for cultured meat. Around Tel Aviv alone, there are six companies doing research in the field, including MeaTech, which were also featured in the conference lineup. MeaTech Business Development Director Simon Fried explained, “We are currently developing organic and 3D ‘ink’ printers that will allow us to produce a classic steak by the end of the year. Investors are also lining up at MeaTech, the latest addition being Ashton Kutcher.
Precision fermentation is another popular approach among investors interested in producing animal products without animals. Bacteria and yeast are “programmed” to produce milk proteins, for example. Ice cream made from animal milk protein is already available in the United States, while in Germany companies are working on the cheese. “Cheese is supposed to be healthy, sustainable and affordable – so far no cheese meets these requirements, neither plant-based nor dairy,” said Nate Crosser, investor of Blue Horizon, in a statement. round table. Will the mozzarella soon be made with milk, but without the cow? Crosser says, “It’s a big challenge, but we humans can do cool things if we try. “