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Prospects for Cultivated Meat Boosted by JBS, Upside Foods Investments

As alt-meat technology continues to make innovative strides, recent investments by major industry players suggest the long-term potential of the cultivated, or lab-grown, meat sector.

Last week, JBS announced plans to invest $100 million in cell-based meat. The strategy includes acquiring a majority stake in Spanish cultivated meat company BioTech Foods and starting a research and development lab for biotechnology and cultivated protein in Brazil.

This move marks the second major investment in meat alternatives by JBS this year. In April, the company acquired Vivera, a large European plant-based food company.

Biotech Foods is currently targeting commercial production of cultivated protein by mid-2024. The JBS deal would include $41 million assigned to building a new plant to scale up production on various prepared foods, such as hamburgers, sausages and meatballs, reported Meat + Poultry. (Nov 18)

In a related development, Upside Foods opened what it says is the most advanced cultivated meat production facility in the world this month. The 53,000-square foot campus in Emeryville, California, is designed to produce any type of meat, poultry, and seafood, directly from animal cells.

3D Printing Technology

Internationally, the second half of 2021 has also yielded considerable advancements in the 3D printing of both cell- and plant-based meat varieties.

Last week, Israeli start-up Redefine Meat launched a 3D printed plant-based meat, making whole “cuts” of the vegan product available for the first time in restaurants in Europe and Israel. 

The company can “print” 10kg of plant-based meat an hour using soy and pea protein, chickpeas, beetroot, yeast, and coconut fat, reported The Financial Times. (Nov 16)

In September, Maya Benami, a PhD microbiologist and alternative protein consultant, tried Redefine’s printed meat at one of the company’s select locations in Israel, a Thai restaurant called Nam.

The meat — a ground beef replacement in a vegetable and noodle dish — was “identical in color, taste, mouthfeel, and texturally equivalent to what anyone would expect in a ‘meat dish’,” Benami told The Food Institute.

In a tasting review by The Guardian, author Zoe Williams notes, “The molecules of difference that create the flavor of beef, as distinct from that of lamb, are few but extremely powerful. This is certainly the closest synthetic approximation yet.” (Nov 16)

Meanwhile, in Japan, scientists at Osaka University have developed a way to 3D print wagyu beef using stem cells from wagyu cows. As Business Insider reported, marbled hunks of the meat — which can cost up to $200 per pound — were created in a lab through a technique called 3D bioprinting, where cell structures can be layered to resemble real tissues in living things. (Aug 30)