Aleph Farms Debuts First Cell-grown, Slaughter-free Steak
Aleph Farms Ltd. has created what it calls the world’s “first cell-grown minute steak,” and in so doing is serving up slaughter-free meat that has been lab-grown in a Petri dish without the need for devoting vast tracts of land, water, feed and use of antibiotics to raise cattle for protein. It will likely take a few years, however, before the product is fully developed and rolled out to retail and foodservice sales channels.
The Ashdod, Israel-based food tech start-up’s new product demonstrates its capabilities for growing different types of natural beef cells isolated from a cow into a fully 3-D structure similar to conventional meat. The breakthrough is said to not only obtain the texture and structure of beef muscle tissue steak, but also the flavor and shape, establishing a new benchmark in cell-cultured meat technology.
Cell-grown meat is typically created from a few cells of a living animal, extracted painlessly. These cells are nourished and grow to produce a complex matrix that replicates muscle tissue.
One of the barriers to grown meat production has been getting various cell types to interact with each other to build a complete tissue structure as they would in the natural environment inside the animal. The challenge is to find the right nutrients and their combination that would allow the multicellular matrix to grow together efficiently, creating a complete structure. The company overcame this obstacle thanks to a bioengineering platform developed in collaboration with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.
Not Science Fiction
“We’re shaping the future of the meat industry — literally,” said Didier Toubia, co-founder and chief executive officer of Aleph Farms. “Making a patty or a sausage from cells cultured outside the animal is challenging enough. Imagine how difficult it is to create a whole-muscle steak. At Aleph Farms, this is not science fiction. We’ve transformed the vision into reality by growing a steak under controlled conditions. The initial products are still relatively thin, but the technology we developed marks a true breakthrough and a great leap forward in producing a cell-grown steak.”
The company is implementing a combination of six unique technologies that should allow it to drop production costs of the meat. These include innovative approaches related to an animal-free growth medium to nourish the cells, and bioreactors – the tanks in which the tissue grows.
Aleph Farms’ minute steak is thinly sliced and will cook in just a minute or so,” said Amir Ilan, chef of the restaurant Paris Texas in Ramat Gan, Israel. “For me, it is a great experience to eat meat that has the look and feel of beef but has been grown without antibiotics and causes no harm to animals or the environment. Aleph Farms meat has high culinary potential – it can be readily incorporated into top-shelf preparations or served in premium-casual restaurants, trendy cafes, bistros, or other eateries.”
Aleph Farms was co-founded in 2017 by Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen, a part of the Strauss Group Ltd., and the Technion. The company is supported by US and European venture capital firms.
Tyson Bets on FM Technologies
Meanwhile, as regulators in the United States evaluate whether cultured meats are safe to consume on a regular basis, American meat giant Tyson Foods is co-leading a $2.2 million seed investment in Future Meat Technologies. The Jerusalem-based biotechnology company is advancing a distributive manufacturing platform for the cost-efficient, non-GMO production of meat directly from animal cells, without the need to raise or harvest animals.
In addition to Tyson, the Neto Group, one of the largest food conglomerates in Israel, S2G Ventures, a Chicago-based venture capital fund, Bits x Bites, China’s first food technology venture capital fund, and Agrinnovation, an Israeli investment fund founded by Yissum, the Technology Transfer Company of The Hebrew University, participated in the first round of financing. New York based HB Ventures also joined the round.
Future Meat Technologies focuses on developing a new generation of manufacturing technology that enables the cost-efficient production of fat and muscle cells, the core building blocks of meat.
“It is difficult to imagine cultured meat becoming a reality with a current production price of about $10,000 per kilogram,” said Professor Yaakov Nahmias, the company’s founder and Chief Scientist. “We redesigned the manufacturing process until we brought it down to $800 per kilogram today, with a clear roadmap to $5-10 per kg by 2020.”
“This is our first investment in an Israel-based company and we’re excited about this opportunity to broaden our exposure to innovative, new ways of producing protein,” said Justin Whitmore, executive vice president for corporate strategy and chief sustainability officer at Springdale, Arkansas-headquartered Tyson Foods. “We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices.”
“Global demand for protein and meat is growing at a rapid pace, with an estimated worldwide market of more than a trillion dollars, including explosive growth in China. We believe that making a healthy, non-GMO product that can meet this demand is an essential part of our mission,” said Rom Kshuk, chief executive officer of Future Meat Technologies.